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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My best friend, "Bette," is one of the nicest, smartest teens you'll ever meet. I enjoy her company, we get along great, and we have a lot in common. She's also my role model, since I'm two years younger than she is. (I skipped a couple of grades.)

Recently, Bette has been smoking weed and encouraging me to try it. I am very against smoking. I'm afraid Bette might be doing the wrong thing. She says it's OK because she does it only a little bit.

How can I persuade her to stop? Should I even try? Will I be ruining a great friendship? -- NEEDS HELP IN GEORGIA

DEAR NEEDS HELP: You appear to be more mature than your older friend. Not only is pot smoking generally unhealthy, it impairs your judgment. Marijuana can affect memory and the choices smokers make while under the influence. It is also illegal, with all that implies.

It is important that you understand that people change as they mature -- or fail to mature. If Bette continues on this path, she may eventually begin spending more time with other kids who smoke pot. It could affect her grades and her participation in sports and other interests. You may have less and less in common. So start developing friendships with other students whose interests and goals are similar to yours and continue moving forward on your own wholesome path.

By all means, try to persuade Bette to stop; as her friend, it is the right thing to do. But she is ultimately responsible for her own behavior -- or misbehavior -- and you have to protect your own future.

DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from a 13-year-old girl whose father is deployed in the Middle East. She was worried about her mother's depression. You wisely suggested that the daughter seek assistance from a trusted adult who knows her mother and can encourage her to talk to a doctor. I would like to offer some additional suggestions:

The mother's primary-care manager through her health-care provider is a good starting point for assistance. She can also find out if there is a family advocacy program available at their military base. These programs offer support groups for spouses and children.

This child and her mother are probably eligible for TRICARE, the Defense Department's health-care program for military personnel, their families and retirees. TRICARE offers a health services and support contractor to manage the family's health benefits. It offers in-person or telephone counseling and online assistance. The mother can visit www.tricare.osd.mil and request customer service using one of the toll-free numbers.

Americans must do their part to support those who are sacrificing so much in defense of our freedoms. -- JUDY BLACK, VICE PRESIDENT, TRIWEST HEALTH CARE ALLIANCE, PHOENIX DEAR JUDY: Amen to that! And thank you for offering this valuable information to the spouses of our military personnel.

DEAR ABBY: I am 21 years old and have been thin all my life. But for the past year, I have been getting up during the night and eating. Sometimes the next morning I don't even know what I ate the night before!

I have also noticed that I am gaining weight. Please help. -- NOCTURNAL EATER

DEAR NOCTURNAL: Discuss this with your doctor. If you're doing this while not fully awake, it may be a symptom of a sleep disorder.

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 $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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