Inside the opioid crisis on Staten Island, and in the nation

STATEN ISLAND (WABC) -- More than 52,000 Americans a year die from opioid overdoses. President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency.

Eyewitness News is shining a bright light on the epidemic, on Staten Island, where in the past 24 days there have been 29 overdoses.

"I want to get high right now. I want to get high," said Allen, a drug addict.

Allen, it is not his real name, likes to get high. Pills, heroin, whatever he can find. A few weeks ago it was fentanyl, 50 times stronger than heroin and it almost killed him.

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Jim Dolan spoke to the man on Staten Island.

"I went blue, I went code blue, I did a shot thinking it was heroin, it wasn't, it was synthetic fentanyl and real fentanyl, it's extremely stronger," Allen said.

His friends refused to call an ambulance.

"We didn't call because we were in the atmosphere of a lot more drugs, and people were paranoid that if you call the cops, what's going to happen," Allen said.

"They would have let you die?" Eyewitness News Reporter Jim Dolan asked.

"They would have," Allen said.

Allen agreed to talk with Eyewitness News if we didn't show his face. He is part of the growing American opioid epidemic in America that President Trump addressed Thursday.

"The opioid crisis is an emergency, I'm saying right now it is an emergency, a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis," President Trump said.

"We actually have two doses in here," a paramedic said.

It is so bad, overdoses are so common now, that EMTs in the city all carry a kit with the drug naloxone or narcan in it, to save the lives of people overdosing. But many of the people they're trying to save, don't want it.

"They may not be breathing adequately, and they are still able to form a sentence, and they will say please don't give me the narcan," said Cesar Escobar, a paramedic.

"This drug has caused you nothing but trouble," Dolan said.

"Nothing but trouble, and pain and heartache," Allen said. "It's not just a feeling, sometimes I just don't want to be here."

It is, Allen says, how he gets away.

Allen and his wife are set to begin treatment at a rehab facility in Upstate New York next week.
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