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