TODAY | October 18, 2012
>>> but let us begin with a growing problem on college campuses. a drug that some kids are taking, even dealing that may surprise you. nbc's kate snow takes a look for tonight's "rock center."
>> if you ask teenagers or a 20-something, they all know what an addy is, almost viewed as a form of caffeine or red bull . but one ivy league student learned the hard way, it's not something to mess around with.
>> reporter: it was exam time at columbia university , stefan perez was in the library struggling to study with a friend.
>> i told him, you know, i can't concentrate. he said this is what you need and pulls out this pill.
>> what kind of pill?
>> an adderall pill from his prescription.
>> adderall , it's a drug we've all heard about, widely prescribed for attention deficit disorders. but this isn't a story about adhd, it's a story of an ambitious student and many, many more who have misused adderall to get an edge.
>> i had this tunnel vision , everything else was not in my zone. it was just me and my books and whatever i had to do. and i was just scanning pages like a machine.
>> taking it all in?
>> yeah, i wouldn't even want to get up and drink water.
>> they call it the college crack, they call it the study drug, the focus. when you hear those terms, you know right there people are talking about adderall .
>> reporter: robert l. hill , special agent with the federal drug enforcement administration says students who abuse adderall don't seem to realize the risk they're taking.
>> it's treated as the same class as cocaine as oxycodone. you can be charged with a felony because you're violating the law.
>> how easy is it to get this stuff?
>> almost as easy as buying books at the bookstore.
>> wipe don't kids think this is a big deal ? this is a controlled substance.
>> because you're doing very well. when you're taking it most of the time.
>> reporter: and before long, stefan said he wanted ready access to his own supply.
>> i said, how did you get that prescription? he said, oh, go to psychological health services , they give it out like it's candy.
>> he made an appointment and got his own prescription. we asked columbia for an interview, the university declined to comment on this case. but in a statement said, its student health service uses a detailed clinical protocol for evaluation of adhd and related conditions and takes a wholistic approach toward treatment including short-term counseling. stefan says he shared his pills, even sold some to other students, a mistake that came back to haunt him one night in december 2010 .
>> it was an explosive bang that followed by this that knocked my door down. i was like, whoa.
>> it was an early morning raid, stefan was caught up in a drug bust . the nypd's operation ivy league.
>> in the end, stefan pleaded guilty to selling adderall , did 300 hours of community service . columbia expelled him. he also suffered mood swings and other side effects on adderall and he wanted to tell his story in part so other students would recognize it's a dangerous drug , it's not something to play around with, and he wants people to learn from his mistakes.
>> that's important information. and by the way, if you want to see more of kate's story about adderall , that's tonight on "rock center with brian williams " at 10:00 /9:00 central time .