updated 8/30/2005 1:59:30 PM ET 2005-08-30T17:59:30

Police around the country have arrested more than 400 people in the first nationally coordinated operation aimed at producers and sellers of methamphetamine, officials said Tuesday.

Police in more than 200 cities and the Drug Enforcement Administration took part over the past week in Operation Wildfire, which also resulted in the seizure of more than 200 pounds of the drug and 56 labs where it was made.

The arrests follow intense criticism from members of Congress and local law enforcement that the federal government is not doing enough to combat the use of methamphetamine. More than the half the 500 sheriffs in a recent survey called meth their top problem, far surpassing cocaine and marijuana.

Methamphetamine, which can come in the form of a crystal-like powder or rocklike chunks, is an addictive stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally. Its street names include “ice,” “crystal,” “speed” and “tina.” Meth can be made using ingredients in over-the-counter cold medicines, prompting a dozen states to pass laws forcing stores to remove medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from shelves.

At least 12 million people have tried meth, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Authorities have dismantled more than 50,000 clandestine meth labs since 2001.

While the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy continues to identify marijuana as the nation’s most substantial drug problem, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently said meth has overtaken marijuana as the greatest danger to children.

The Bush administration earlier this month announced a new training laboratory for police agencies and $16.2 million in grants to focus on treatment of meth addicts.

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