When we hear about performance enhancing drugs, you may think of steroids and sports, but there's a growing trend on college campuses that involves so-called "smart drugs." Some students are turning to them to do well in their classes--especially when it comes to term papers and finals.
Talk to any college student and many will tell you that Adderall or Ritalin-use is especially common during the most stressful times.
"It's usually common before finals," Gerardo Velayarce says. "Everyone is trying to cram last minute like the day before."
"I feel like all my friends who go to other schools go, ‘Oh yea, Adderall! They use it," Theresa Statkus says. "I think it's pretty common."
The stimulant is normally used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or narcolepsy.
We spoke with one student who did not want to be identified.
"My first time was during my freshman year of college where I was studying for final examinations," he tells FOX 32. "At first we took one half of each. They said they only lasted three hours, not sure about specifics but when we did, we were very focused, suddenly I felt like this huge productivity boost in myself."
He says it's typically students who have a prescription for Adderall who are instead selling the drug to others at $5 a pill.
"It's very easy to find on campus. You can normally come up to someone you heard from a referral from someone. It's never someone on the corner selling it. It's normally behind closed doors," he continues.
Dr. Celeste Napier, a pharmacologist with Rush University Medical Center says, like any drug, too much can be harmful.
"These drugs are prescribed properly for ADHD, narcolepsy because these people's brain are different from normal people's and compensates for different chemicals," Dr. Napier explains. "Too much dopamine over-activates the brain. That can cause hyperactivity, it can cause shakiness, it can cause cardiovascular problems like your heart to palpitate, it keeps you awake at night."
She adds, in some cases, it can be deadly if the user has an existing heart problem.
"It can also be detrimental to the heart, you can have cardio problems, increased blood pressure, if you have a thyroid problems and if you're not aware it can be very harmful," she says.
Addiction is also possible.
"It can be vicious cycle where you can no longer function without the stimulant on board," Dr. Napier warns.
This past summer, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York called on colleges to crack down on the abuse of Adderall and Ritalin.
Still, this college student maintains he's not concerned about the risks and he doesn't plan on quitting until his studies are over.
"Considering how tough it is to be in my major at school, my senior year there might be temptation, no qualms just down for half hour," he tells FOX 32. "It really does help for sitting hours on end."
Dr. Napier says the best natural stimulant is exercise. Go for a run or head to the gym before you have to sit and focus for hours. She says the help a student might receive in one night is not worth the health problems down the road. She also warns mixing Adderall or Ritalin with alcohol is dangerous.