By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 04, 2011 at 3:04 PM

You've seen them before stashed behind the glass at your neighborhood corner store; those wildly colorful pills in delightfully tacky packages that promise everything from street legal highs, to a better night's sleep, to a longer-lasting and harder erection or any combination of the three.

There is a booming industry manufacturing and marketing these "supplements" that mimic the effects of street legal and pharmaceutical drugs to anyone desperate or shameless enough to throw down a few ducats on products with names like Bullet Proof -- a so-called male enhancement pill that promises increased sexual performance -- Go Pillz for increased energy, focus, memory and a better mood, and Lazy Cakes Relaxation Brownies, a product whose mascot is a glassy-eyed brownie that smiles at you from the package like a chocolate Tommy Chong.

While some of these "fake drugs" -- like a line of synthetic marijuana made illegal by the Drug Enforcement Agency earlier this month -- are created in laboratories to mimic the psychoactive effects of real drugs, many are just crammed full of high doses of legal vitamins. Often their manufacturers admit in small print somewhere on the packaging that their claims are unsupported by the Federal Drug Administration.

Yet, obviously, people are buying them, as evidenced by their omnipresence at gas stations, corner stores and head shops all over town. And while, unlike illicit drugs, you don't have to buy them from a guy named Snake whose dirty studio apartment is covered in black light posters of unicorns and Jim Morrison, something about purchasing them feels just as shady.

Over the weekend I decided to perform a very unscientific review of a handful of these products to see what they did, and to find out -- among other things -- if something I bought for $4 called "Dirty Dreamz" would actually help me "Sleep great and wake up totally satisfied," as promised.

Product: Bullet Proof

Packaging: A single bright red gel capsule visible through a clear plastic shield surrounded by bulls-eyes and bearing the slogan: "You will never miss your target."

Implied effect: Packaging promised Bullet Proof was "scientifically formulate for users to experience harder, firmer and longer lasting erections helping to increase sexual pleasure and performance."

Dosage: One gel cap.

Actual affect: Perhaps the only noticeable effect was the feeling of absolute humiliation while purchasing the product. The female clerk clearly did not believe my claims that I was purchasing the product for a story and understandably refused to make eye contact with me.

Despite taking the pill on an empty stomach as suggested I did not experience the 18 to 36 hours of promised effects. In fact, sadly, I did not experience anything despite thumbing through the Rihanna cover story in this month's issue of Rolling Stone while awaiting the pill to kick in.

Verdict: Ineffective. The $7.49 spent on Bullet Proof would have gone to better use, and probably produced better results had I just put it toward this month's high-speed Internet bill.

Product: Go Pillz

Packaging: A green paper pouch that looked to have been designed on a 1993 version of Microsoft paint that contained three rather large multicolored capsules.

Implied effect: Increased energy and stamina, improved focus and memory, elevated mood and well being.

Dosage: One to two 730 mg capsules and no more than three capsules daily.

Actual effect: Went ahead and took all three, because sitting around waiting for that 36-hour erection promised by Bullet Proof had made me really drowsy. Didn't feel any physical effects at first and actually did worse on an online memory test after taking the pills. Tried to remember what the scientific method was all about but couldn't so I decided to ride out the Go Pillz and move on to our next convenience store wonder drug. After sitting around for an hour the only noticeable effect was mild nausea and the vague sensation that my skin was on fire.

Verdict: No luck here, either. Shockingly, a $4 wonder pill bought at a gas station can't actually make one smarter, more energized and happier. Again, I would have had better luck spending the money on a double espresso Red Eye at Alterra, which would have kept me awake for days and not required swallowing green horse pills that make me want to puke.

Product: Lazy-Cakes Relaxation Brownies

Packaging: A cellophane pouch bearing a label with the Lazy-Cakes mascot, an apparently stoned cartoon brownie that looks like the California Raisins' shady former saxophone player who got fired for showing up late to one too many gigs.

Implied effects: Boasts of "Relaxation built into every bite." The product has levels of the natural sleeping aid melatonin that are well above daily doses recommended by doctors to help people sleep, and cautions users against eating the things before driving or going on a "hot date." Several media reports on the product have focused on doctors who warn the high levels of melatonin can be potentially dangerous to adults and even deadly to children.

Dosage: Two servings per brownie with 15 mg of proprietary blend per serving.

Actual effect: First of all, I must admit these brownies were surprisingly tasty as far as convenience store bakery items go. But beyond the taste, the Relaxation Brownies did actually make me pretty sleepy. Hard to say if the effects were real or imagined, but I passed out hard about an hour after eating the thing. Again, this could have more to do with the fact that it was raining outside and that I had spent most of my day sitting around waiting to get erections and anticipating the effects of over the counter speed. Still I managed to pass out in the afternoon which I rarely do and slept deeply for several hours.

Verdict: Turns out that sleepy eyed brownie on the package may have actually been getting high on his own supply. These things kind of work.

Product: Dirty Dreamz

Packaging: A paper pouch with a curvaceous woman in high heels silhouetted against the full moon; very '80s.

Implied effects: The package reads" "Sleep great and wake up totally satisfied!" An alleged "sex dream enhancer." As far as I know the mainstream medical community is too busy trying to cure terrible diseases to formulate a legitimate and comparable medication, but, honestly, I was intrigued. For $4 a good night's sleep and sexual gratification seemed like quite a deal, although potentially messy. Exposure to sexual material prior to sleep was recommended.

Dosage: One to three large earth tone-colored tablets prior to sleep.

Actual effects: Other than the embarrassment of publicly admitting to exposure to sexual material prior to sleep I can't say I noticed anything. My hopes were not high for Dirty Dreamz since it is manufactured by NAP & Associates LLC the same fine people who brought us Go Pillz. Can you really trust a pill manufacturer who won't spring to get a keyboard with a functioning S key? I did have a dream that I was really good at skateboarding, which at age 28 is infinitely more pathetic than it is sexy.

Verdict: As far as dreams go winning an imaginary skateboard competition was pretty satisfying. So despite its completely non-sexual nature I guess that technically DirtyDreamz vaguely delivered on its promise of helping me wake up "totally satisfied."

Overall verdict: Like real drugs, drugs purchased at the convenience store will cost you a lot of money and result in little more than an anxiety-filled transaction, a wasted day and potentially detrimental effects to your health. You are better off skipping the gas station pharmacy and using your money to buy a Hot Pocket, which, while also unhealthy and embarrassing to purchase, is at least secretly kind of delicious.