A new report by the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse makes several recommendations to curb the growing tide of prescription painkiller abuse among young people that's leading to higher levels of heroin addiction.

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The panel is calling for the state's Prescription Monitoring Program -- which is currently voluntary -- to become mandatory for anyone writing or filling a prescription.

"The higher the participation there is in the PMP, the more able we can capture any abuses that are occurring," said Celina Gray, acting executive director of the council.

She said the report also puts forth a plan to update school curricula, so New Jersey schoolchildren are taught about drug abuse, and it recommends that insurance companies be required to expand coverage of drug treatment programs.

"For addiction and mental health issues to be addressed properly," she said, "they should be covered as per parity, in the same way that other diseases are covered."

Gray said the council will kick off a major public awareness campaign in May that will focus on fighting addiction and stigma, and "we are also in meetings to create an information line solely devoted to heroin and other opiate use."

The bottom line, she said, is that prescription painkiller abuse and heroin addiction is "the number-one cause of accidental death in the nation. It has gone beyond car accidents that were previously the number-one cause. Until we look at this as a disease, people are not going to want to come forward."