From prescription pills to heroin addiction: How a Racine man was able to break the cycle

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RACINE -- From prescription pills, to heroin. It’s a progression some doctors say is becoming far too common in the country, and here in Wisconsin. On January 12th, the Wisconsin Assembly approved a package of bills designed to slow that progression. The proposals must now be approved by the Senate.

The bills deal with entering prescriptions into a statewide database.

One bill would require opiate dispensers to enter prescriptions into a statewide database within 24 hours.

The other bills in the package would require police who find an opiate prescription at an overdose scene to enter it in the database. Additionally, methadone and pain clinics would have to register with the state, and the number of people receiving methadone annually would have to be reported to the state.

Proponents of the bills say they're designed to prevent prescription drug abuse that can lead to heroin addiction.

Chris Uran

Chris Uran

That's what happened to Chris Uran from Racine.

“You get locked up, you get zipped up or you sober up,” Uran said.

Uran has been sober for five years. He is a recovering heroin addict.

“I don`t think you every really make it,” Uran said of the recovery process.

In his 20s, Uran was a healthy, happily married Racine man with a growing family and a good job. He never dreamed he would ever try heroin -- let alone become addicted to it.

“It has that bad stigma, you know? Dirty needles, back alleys,” Uran said.

But then again, like so many heroin addicts today, Uran didn't start with heroin.

Dr. Michael Miller, with Rogers Memorial Hospital

Dr. Michael Miller, with Rogers Memorial Hospital

“The current epidemic often begins with people using prescription drugs and they say 'I would never use heroin.' And they begin using prescription drugs,” explained Dr. Michael Miller, with Rogers Memorial Hospital.

Uran first got his hands on painkillers in 2007, after he injured himself during a kickball game at Homerun Heaven in Racine. He was sent home from the hospital with 10 screws and a plate in  his ankle, and a prescription for Percocet and OxyContin.

Home Run Heaven

Home Run Heaven

“I didn`t want the prescriptions to stop,” Uran said.

Uran started faking appointments and re-injury to get more pills, and found ways to 'speed up the effects' like crushing them and inhaling them. But then his doctor cut him off.

Uran said he then found out he could buy the pills on the street, and it was easy to do. The only struggle, Uran said, was that it was expensive. Heroin however, was also easy to get, and not nearly as pricey.

Chris Uran

Chris Uran

Still, Uran battled with trying it -- until he found he didn’t need to use a needle. He could inhale the heroin, as he was already doing with the pills.

“I was like 'no, I’m not going to go that route,' until I found out you could sniff and I was like 'oh, OK -- I can sniff it! I can handle sniffing,'" Uran said.

“People tell themselves 'oh, it’s not going to be that bad if I’m just snorting it.' That`s of course not true either. And the end point in so many of these cases is intravenous heroin use,” said Dr. Miller.

Eventually, that's where Uran found himself.

Prescription pills

“You do it to get high at first, when you're doing the heroin -- or to avoid pain, but then you do it to avoid being sick,” Uran said.

Uran thought he was managing just fine. He was even still going to work, but in reality, his secrets were destroying him and those he loved.

“They say for the addict or the person, the alcohol, it`s the drugs that is running or controlling them -- their choice -- and for me my drug of choice was him. What’s he doing? Who's he with? Who's he not with? Where’s he going?When's he going to be back? It was just these thoughts. This noise was constantly in my mind," Shann Uran, Chris' wife said.

Prescription pills

It took several stints in rehab, an arrest, and an overdose before Uran hit  'rock bottom.'

“The final straw was the money. I lost my job,” Uran said.

Right after that, Uran spent 28 days at Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital, a residential treatment center.

Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital

Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital

“It literally it saved my life,” Uran said of Herrington. "When I got out there, I felt like I was reborn.”

“Some people would say heroin addiction can’t be treated. That notion hasn`t really gotten traction because it’s so untrue,” said Dr. Miller.

Uran's wife Shann got help too, and they met others who have been in her shoes.

Shann Uran

Shann Uran

“That`s really where I found strength and where I found hope. And learned a different way to live and different way to think and I do have a choice,” Shann Uran said.

Shann says her husband is now doing things he could never imagine he could do, and living a life he once believed he could only dream of -- personally and professionally.

“I don`t have to wake up every morning wondering 'where am I going to get the fix from? How long do I have to wait for? Am I going to get arrested?'" Chris Uran said.

Uran said he knows however, it's not something he could have done alone.

“Willpower is not going to be enough. You need some type of program. And that's what I truly believe,” Uran said.

That's a notion doctors, and Wisconsin's Attorney General Brad Schimel, hope spreads, along with the realization of just who this drug can affect.

“The main theme for addiction used to be -- you need to be responsible for yourself and not act irresponsibly. And now people are looking at addiction as a public health problem,” said Dr. Miller.

“If something good comes out of this epidemic that's positive, it might be that we see that this addiction can strike people of all walks of life, all types of people. And maybe people start recognizing it for what it is. It is a disease. And we should focus on getting people help for it,” Schimel said.

Dr. Miller says the total number of people who have an addiction to heroin is still a small percentage -- only 1 or 2% of the population. But while heroin isn't happening in numbers that transcend alcohol or marijuana use, Miller says the deaths from it are transcending everything.

Dose of Reality

CLICK HERE to learn more about the state of Wisconsin's Dose of Reality campaign, to prevent prescription painkiller abuse in Wisconsin.

9 comments

  • Brenda

    Watched the program on herion and it’s true it cause a lot of death, I pray for those that went or are still going through this horrible disease,I’m a recovering addict from alcohol and crack cocaine and in this addition as well ppl die and some don’t know how to get help or they feel like I felt like nobody cares and all along and even I didn’t have a voice for a long time God bless us all

  • I'm a survivor n i will make it

    If you actually survive to tell your story your blessed. I’m stronger then ever now that I won this battle myself, I will never get back the most important thing in life behind this demon, 3 daughters who can not be replaced, almost every treatment facility in Milwaukee including drug court, so many people I knew who only overdosed 1 time and did not get 2nd chance, when I overdosed 5 time’s, wanting to die but couldn’t, I was in and out of jail, got out and ran straight to herion, finally went to prison it took me 8 months out of 12 to not go back to herion, I refused to earn my freedom back just to go back to hell, I would’ve rather stayed in prison the last 4 months of my sentenced I took back my life, feb 15 this yr will be my 2yrs clean, this man did it so did I or any 1 else, I battle everyday without my 3 beautiful girls, who dont have me or their brother from my addiction, so now I fight to make sure they know I am not that addict any more and I will not give up I now have to make sure my kids never go threw this and learn from my mistakes to see my kids go to heaven I will sacrifice going to hell only to come back stronger for them so this cycle ends. God bless you chris thanks for sharing I pray for everyone going threw this

  • Renee

    Rehabs are shutting down at an alarming rate. Seems the only way to get access is to have money. That is the problem. Bring funding back to rehab centers to HELP them not commercials. Ive struggled with trying to help my father for the past 10yrs. Theres no place besides methadone clinics. And methadone is just as dangerous!!

  • IMMLY.org (@IMMLY)

    It is interesting that this article promotes Dr. Michael Miller, and his Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital. Dr. Miller is a lifetime marijuana prohibitionist who has frequently testified at legislative hearings against legalizing medical cannabis in WI. So by advocating that cannabis users face criminal penalties for using pot and lobbying against making it legal, even for medical use, Dr. Miller is in essence, promoting opiate and heroin addiction because cannabis is a much safer alternative for pain relief. Studies in states where medical cannabis is legal show dramatic reductions in opiate deaths and overdoses.

  • Mr0311

    Truth is some people just need to be strong and suck up the pain they have. Doctors don’t force you on pain meds, truth is most are against it and it is usually one of the last options along with surgery. I have a broken back and severe back pain myself, feels like a sledgehammer has been crushed against my lower back for years now, the muscle spasms and Sciatic feel like knife stabs and that’s all day everyday. I’m 25 and I cannot even run anymore, shovel snow, walk for too long or even bend over to tie my shoes sometimes, I’m a former Marine and college Football player so being active has been part of my life since birth lol. I also have trouble sleeping and never comfortable sitting down, bending over to wash my hands at the sink even gets annoying. I’m in constant pain 24/7..sometimes I rather get shot in the face quite honestly, although I must say all this is better than being addicted/dependent on opiates. After all you get used to the pain, accept, be one with it. The hard part is the mental aspect of it all, that will truly test your spirit…

  • palaminovero

    its amazing how you all want to help addicts but you portray the people like there monsters in the media when the drug is the monster

  • C Lesch

    My daugter is an addict and wants to quit, so she says. She has insurance but it will only cover out patient, where can she go to get help if she truly wants it. There seems to be waiting lists at some places I have called she is afraid of the withdrawls and getting sick.

  • Emily Raven

    So what about those of us in chronic intractable pain from disease and body disfigurements that prevents us from working without medication? What about those of us who have never abused our meds? What about those of us who have tried all the other alternatives? Are we just supposed to suffer to save an addict with a completely different problem than what we face on a daily basis? Imagine being 26 years old and having to have your mother brush your hair for you because the pain and other comorbidities of multiple conditions renders you unable to care for yourself but you once had a working med and were a productive member of society but got that taken away from you because of other people’s actions. Imagine being housebound knowing you could resume a normal life if the doctors would allow you to have your working med. Imagine being put on every possible alternative including things very dangerous to your heart while having multiple heart conditions. Imagine having your entire life and functioning just taken away by some doctor that just isn’t “comfortable” providing that one single medicine. Imagine being told it’s your fault ibuprofen just doesn’t cut it. Imagine having only worse things to look forward to because your condition is degenerative and they still don’t care about your pain or your life. This is what I and many others deal with on a daily basis for sake of saving others that have nothing to do with us.

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