Medication-assisted treatment helped get former Steamboat resident on road to sobriety

Area clinics provide treatment options for those battling addiction

Former longtime Steamboat Springs resident John Trolley poses this week with his two dogs, Atlas, left, a malamute, and Arie, a great Pyrenees. The love from animals is just one part in a bigger picture of the multiple steps to his sobriety.
John Trolley/Courtesy photo

The road to a sober lifestyle for former longtime Steamboat Springs resident John Trolley required support in many formats, from friends, to peer support groups, to medically assisted treatment.

Now, the former ski racer and restaurant manager, who was arrested in Steamboat for felony drug possession in January 2020, is living in sobriety, helped by the friendship of his two dogs and the animals he cares for working and living at a pet resort on the Front Range.

“It’s just a positive experience being able to work with dogs every day. It’s a lot easier working with animals than customer service in the restaurant industry,” Trolley said.

Trolley explained five keys to his journey to recovery and at the top of that list is relationships. That includes a good friend who cared for his two large dogs when Trolley was in the Routt County Jail and Detention Center for 90 days.

“For me, my family and friends were everything in my recovery,” said Trolley, 44. “Because in my addiction, it was quite the opposite. I completely isolated and didn’t care about anything else except my self-seeking habit, so just getting my family and friends back and rebuilding those relationships to me was probably the biggest and most meaningful part of my recovery.”

Trolley, who first moved to Steamboat at age 18, credits his sobriety to a multi-prong approach, including the Narcotics Anonymous support group in Steamboat, grant funding from nonprofit West Slope Casa to pay for 30-day in-patient treatment on the Front Range, a recovery coach through the Hornbuckle Foundation and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) through the Front Range Clinic on Oak Street in Steamboat.

“(MAT) has been a huge tool for me to take away craving,” Trolley said. “It’s helped me get back to a somewhat normal life.”

Ken Davis, a physician assistant at Front Range Clinic, helped to make MAT more available in Routt County since 2018. The local Front Range Clinic serves some 75 MAT clients per year.

MAT also is available through Northwest Colorado Health in Steamboat and Craig for primary care patients, for clients through Providence Recovery in Craig and for in-patient clients at Foundry Treatment Center in Routt County. Front Range Clinic also offers mobile services in Oak Creek and Hayden.

Davis commended the 14th Judicial District for allowing the use of MAT through local medical providers for people incarcerated in jail in Routt and Moffat counties.

Although Davis calls MAT a “life-saving intervention” and a “game changer,” he also said MAT alone is not the solution.

“You need a full integrated program, and you need the community supports,” said Davis, who has worked in the field for 20 years. “Treatments can be in the form of medicines but also in the form of therapy, counseling and peer support.”

Davis said MAT is approved in three forms by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat drug addiction. The treatment medicines bind to the same receptors in the brain as other opiates in order to dull drug cravings.

The three drugs approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid dependence include buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone, and all three treatments have shown to be safe and effective in combination with counseling and psychosocial support, according to the FDA.

For people addicted to opioids, the use of MAT can reduce the risk of dying by 50%, Davis said, and the chance of successful sustained sobriety with the help of MAT can be six in 10 compared to one in 10 with no medical intervention, Davis said.

With the increase in danger from fentanyl in Colorado, statistics showing up to 11 attempts are needed for sustained success in recovery can be intense, Davis explained.

“Any type of addiction is a chronic, complex, relapsing brain disease, so someone in their first 90 days of recovery has an eight in 10 chance of relapse,” Davis said. “When you reach the fifth year, it’s a one in 10 chance for relapse, and that’s where you stay the rest of your life.”

Davis emphasized that safe and affordable housing in the Yampa Valley is another key to patients maintaining sobriety because people coming out of treatment may be forced to go back to risky and non-supportive living environments.

“When they get out, the housing situation puts them right back into a very dire situation,” Davis said.

The physician assistant said two top needs in the Yampa Valley include an official sober living facility such as a group home with a house manager and peer support as well as sufficient grant funding to help residents access higher level in-patient treatment when needed.

John Trolley tries for a group photo with his dogs Atlas (left) and Arie. “I’m just so grateful I didn’t have to give them up throughout all of this,” Trolley said of his recovery journey.
John Trolley/Courtesy photo

“We have a lot of the infrastructure in place in Northwest Colorado for this to succeed, but funding and housing are always going to be issues,” Davis said.

More than two years after his arrest, and many steps later, Trolley is succeeding in his journey, adding, “Something that has always stuck with me is as long as you are in recovery, you never have to be alone again.”

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