LITTLE ROCK — Authorities announced a 65-count federal indictment Friday charging 23 people in a major push against illegal sales of prescription drugs in the state.

LITTLE ROCK — Authorities announced a 65-count federal indictment Friday charging 23 people in a major push against illegal sales of prescription drugs in the state.

In the indictment, handed down Jan. 10 and unsealed Friday, 20 of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone.

Four face the same charges relating to the drug hydrocodone, six faces distribution or aiding and abetting distribution of oxycodone and various other charges, including use of a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking crime.

Oxycodone is a pain killer. Hydrocodone is also a pain killer that is sometimes used in cough medicine.

“Abuse of prescription drugs, especially by Arkansas’ youth, is the fastest growing illicit drug problem our state faces. Fully 20 percent of high school seniors in Arkansas admit to having abused prescription drugs,” U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer said at a news conference.

“These alarming statistics point to the unmistakable conclusion that we have a problem that must be addressed immediately,” Thyer said.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies took part in the operation dubbed “Big 80s,” so named because the oxycodone pills most valued and sought by abusers are 80-milligram pills, Thyer said.

In addition to the Jan. 10 indictment, a federal grand jury returned five separate indictments between February and December charging 27 people with trafficking in prescription drugs, authorities said.

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Bill Lawson writes for the North Little Rock Times and Maumelle Monitor