Salt Lake officials are urging people to clean out their medicine cabinets as a way to prevent prescription-drug abuse.

Abbie Vianes, coordinator for Mayor Ralph Becker's Coalition on Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs, announced the city's participation in the "Clean Out Your Cabinet" prescription-drug abuse prevention program last week.

"The medicine cabinet is the new drug dealer in town," Vianes said.

Research shows that eliminating availability is the most effective strategy for preventing youth from abusing prescription drugs, she said.

More than half of teens who report abusing prescription medications say they got the drugs at home, from a parent or a relative or from a friend, Vianes said. Teens and their parents have a false sense of security, mistakenly believing it is safer to abuse prescription medication than street drugs, she said.

"Parents don't think it's that serious," Vianes said.

That misconception, she said, demands the immediate action of parents by learning the facts and safeguarding medications at home, as well as talking with teens about this very real health threat.

The program advises adults to inventory and monitor medications in their homes, keep drugs in a secure location and properly dispose of leftover or expired drugs. Information about the program will be included in city utility bills. The city also is working with local pharmacies to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription-drug abuse.