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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Who Had Miscarriage Feels Depressed and Alone

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for printing the letter from Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It made me realize that I am not the only person who has returned to old habits after the Sept. 11 attacks. I have a history of drug abuse and self-mutilation. (I cut my arms.) Sadly, I now combine them to relieve my anxiety.

Why didn't I receive treatment as soon as these habits surfaced? Because I am only 16, and adults (and some of my peers) dismiss my behavior as "just one of those stages teens go through."

Can you tell me, Abby, why is it that right now I can walk outside and within minutes get an ounce of heroin -- but it would take two weeks to convince anyone I need help to stop my self-destruction? -- RECOVERING TEEN IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

DEAR RECOVERING TEEN: I'm sad to say this, but it may be because the illegal drug trade is better funded than our mental health system.

However, that's no excuse for continuing the self-destructive behavior. If your parents won't accept the fact that you need help to break the cycle, please talk to another trusted adult about your need to get some professional counseling. The longer you put it off, the more difficult the habits will be to break.