DEAR ABBY: You were right to tell "Just Saying No" (Jan. 16) that his pot-smoking classmates could be headed for addiction or other problems. I worry that marijuana poses more risks to teens than they -- or their parents -- recognize. More kids need professional help kicking marijuana than for all other drugs combined. It is not a "harmless" drug.
School failure, which you mentioned, could be only the first of many problems daily pot smokers may experience. Researchers have a long way to go in understanding the complexity of brain function, but we know that illicit drug use changes the developing brain. Many young people smoke pot before their brain development is settled, and their chronic use of the drug can affect certain centers in the brain that control emotion and reason.
Research shows that regular use of marijuana may also lead to mental health problems. Youth who use marijuana weekly have double the risk of depression later in life, and are three times more likely than non-users to have suicidal thoughts. -- MARC GALANTER, M.D., DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
DEAR DR. GALANTER: Thank you for lending your expertise on this subject. I am sure many teens and their parents will find your letter enlightening.
If they wish, younger readers can read and consider the latest scientific facts about marijuana and other drugs by logging onto � HYPERLINK "http://www.abovetheinfluence.com" ��www.abovetheinfluence.com�. Parents can visit � HYPERLINK "http://www.theantidrug.com" ��www.theantidrug.com� for tips on talking to their adolescents and teens about drugs and how to get them help if that conversation begins "too late."