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"Study Drugs" Dangers On The Rise At Florida Schools

MIAMI (CBS4) - The desire for success has driven some college students to the hospital. Many of them have taken prescription drugs to get better grades. They are referred to as "study drugs" and are easy to get and easy to abuse.

"It helps you sit down for 10 hours straight and get stuff out of the way quickly and effectively," said one student.

They're called "smart pills" or "study drugs". Stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse are passed and pumped through the halls of universities every day.

Tiffany started using Vyvanse two years ago to help her get through nursing school.

"It helps you concentrate. It blocks everything out," said Tiffany.

Vyvanse is a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. It's similar to Adderall, a more well-known stimulant being abused and illegally used by students as well.

These so-called study drugs not only increase focus and concentration but they also can keep the user up all night, a perfect combination for those cramming sessions during finals week.

"It keeps you awake. There's no way you sleep," said Tiffany.

Tiffany took Vyvanse legally with a prescription from her doctor.

But another student, Sarah, got her's from a friend without a prescription. Twelve bucks secured her one Vyvanse pill and a night of uninterrupted studying for a big exam the next day.

"As the exam was approaching, I knew I wanted to spend a few days cramming," said Sarah. "It made me like a sponge."

These smart pills may seem harmless, or even beneficial, but the stimulants have similar compounds to illegal drugs.

"It's a stimulant at the end of the day. It increases heart rate, loss of appetite. It's the exact same symptoms when people use a substance such as cocaine," said Dr. Michelle Gonzalez.

Dr. Gonzalez from the Coral Gables Counseling Center said the problem now lies in teens and adults mixing these stimulants with other substances, like Red Bull, or even addictive substances like cocaine is what sends users to the hospital.

Emergency-room visits for misuse of drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse have more than quadrupled since 2005, according to a new federal report. And in 30 percent of those cases, the stimulant was mixed with another substance.

It's almost frightening how easy it is to get one of these stimulants. If you search for Adderall and Vyvanse on Instagram, you'll be swamped with tons of photos and even videos.

What may be even more shocking is how easy it is to get a prescription legally through a doctor which entails about a 15 minute evaluation.

"It's just a series of questions. If they get easily distracted, their attention and if they are disorganized. That's about it and they hardly ever ask about grades," said Gonzalez.

The side effects of Vyvanse were too much for Tiffany. She experienced heart palpitations and bouts of insomnia. After a year on Vyvanse, she quit using it.

"I loved it at the time.  Now I'm not on it any more because it's not worth it at the end of the day," said Tiffany. "I have the same grades and I can sleep at night now."

But despite the obvious dangers, it doesn't look like the stimulant trend is going away any time in the near future.

"I'm not saying I won't take it during a final exam or something. I don't know, who knows," said a student.

We reached out to South Florida universities to find out what their stance is on study drugs. The University of Miami referred us to their handbook which reads in part: "the possession, use, or sale of the following is prohibited: unprescribed use of prescription medications and inappropriate use of legally obtained over the counter medications.

Florida International University and Nova Southeastern University are on the same page and both told us they have a zero tolerance policy for study drugs.

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