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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Regrets Not Acting to Stop Friend's Drug Use

DEAR ABBY: I am 16 years old and heartbroken. A 15-year-old friend of mine died recently. His name was Cliff and he had been "huffing" (inhaling) propane.

Although Cliff had been huffing for a long time, he told me that he had stopped. Foolishly, I believed him. Friday night he decided to do it again. He was with a friend who tried to stop him, but Cliff was determined. He said he knew what he was doing -- that he had done it a hundred times before. Cliff huffed for about five minutes that night before he died.

All of us are traumatized -- his church, his family, his friends. We never thought this would happen to us or to him. After all, he was only 15 and had his whole life ahead of him.

I know teens have seen and heard all the "Just Say No" ads, but they seem to think nothing bad could ever happen to them. That's what Cliff thought.

I hope to make two points by writing this letter. The first is: DON'T DO DRUGS! Just because propane and some other inhalants are not illegal, doesn't make them safe. They can still kill just as quickly as an illegal drug, and either way you're just as dead.

The second point I want to make is this: If you know somebody who is huffing, or doing any kind of drugs, BE A RAT! Tell their parents, or another adult you can trust who will help you do the right thing. I didn't do it -- and look what happened.

Don't wait until you have the guilt and shame that I have for not telling someone. I could have told his parents, or my mom, or someone else -- and they would have helped Cliff. But I didn't do it, and now he's dead.

Abby, I want everyone to know about this. I know this won't bring Cliff back, but maybe it will make somebody stop and think. Please don't print my name. Just sign me ... HEARTBROKEN IN VIRGINIA

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Thank you for wanting to alert other teens about the danger that inhalants and illegal drugs pose. It's too bad that you will never know how many people will read your letter and re-think their attitude about "huffing." But bear in mind that there is only so much a person can do to save others. At some point, they must help themselves.

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letter from Edith concerning women who don't drive and are constantly bumming rides.

Edith is obviously ignorant about that situation. I am a 52-year-old woman who does not drive. Not only do I not relish bumming rides off people, I despise it!

I suffer from panic disorder. Very few people understand this condition. All my life people have told me, "You'd be so much better off if you would learn to drive."

The truth of the matter is, if I didn't kill myself behind the wheel, I'd probably kill someone else. (Maybe Edith!) -- NO NAME, NO TOWN

DEAR NO NAME: Driving is not for everyone; at least you recognize your limitations. However, panic disorder is treatable. Your physician can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you find ways of managing this not-uncommon condition, and advise you about national support groups.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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