Tyler Merchant, DO is one of our wonderful and compassionate cannabis doctors at Elevate Holistics. In addition to performing patient MMJ card evaluations, he’s the medical director of Holistic Family Medicine and Obstetrics LLC, located in Sedalia, MO. Recently, Elevate Holistics’ Aspen Jewel and Dr. Merchant went live on FB to discuss and answer viewer questions about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this post, we’ll look at what MMJ patients should know about PTSD diagnosis and care.
Dr. Merchant’s Experience with PTSD Patients
While he is not a psychiatrist, Dr. Merchant has seen his fair share of people living with PTSD. According to him, “With PTSD, and to be upfront with everybody here who’s listening in, I am not a PTSD expert, focused just on PTSD. That’s not my sole expertise, and I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m a family doctor, but I work a lot with patients with mood disorders and traumas.”
After listening to his experiences and insights, it’s obvious that Dr. Merchant has some super-helpful knowledge and understanding to share from a doctor’s perspective.
Criteria for Diagnosing PTSD
Before the interview ended, Dr. Merchant told Aspen, “PTSD, to be diagnosed, has to be present for at least a month after the event.” He then goes on to illustrate his point with one of his own traumatic experiences.
Dr. Merchant: So I’ll give you an example, a personal example. Last year of medical school, I got in a fight with a semi out on the turnpike. Let’s just say my Celica lost to the semi. My symptoms did not last longer than a month. But I did wake up with night sweats seeing, replaying the accident.
I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. It was weird. It was like everything was happening quickly. But at the same time, it felt like it was in slow-mo. I can’t describe it in any other way. I was thinking that it could have been the end of my life. And I hit black ice is what happened. I steered out of it. And then I lost control after I steered out of it and hit it again.
But those symptoms, and I mean, I could feel it even up to about a month where I would white knuckle a steering wheel if I was around a semi at all or if rain would fall. Because it reminded me of the day it happened. Fortunately for me, it gave me an appreciation of what people go through. But that could not be classified as PTSD. Because it didn’t last longer than a month. Mine was called acute stress disorder.
Your Care Team and Your PTSD Diagnosis
Dr. Merchant: I’d advise everyone to keep in mind the professionals that you want to put on your team. I don’t know and I don’t follow baseball. So if I say anything that’s ridiculous like, where’s the quarterback? You can correct me there. But you don’t have a baseball team with all catchers or all pitchers.
Aspen Jewel (Elevate Holistics): Right.
Dr. Merchant: You don’t do that because everybody needs to fill a role. So one of the things that I always encourage people to understand is, I am not a lawyer. There are physicians who are lawyers. So don’t expect a physician, it’s fine to ask questions. But I don’t give legal advice. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to support groups and talking with people. But if they’re not a physician, don’t take your medical advice from them. And I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I just mean we’re all trained to bring different things to the table.
PTSD Can Be Complicated by Other Conditions
And another thing is to remember that with anything like PTSD or severe illness, whether it’s diabetes or heart disease, whatever it is. The level of complexity of the person necessarily goes up. And that means that there’s more opportunity for failure. I am definitely in favor of a team-based model. You know just like we work in the office, Aspen. You can fix things. You work miracles. I’m like, I don’t know how that works. Just talk to Aspen.
But the same thing can be said about a team-based approach in medicine. I admit I’m biased because I’m a physician. Every patient that has these issues deserves physician-led care, a physician assistant or nurse practitioner has a place in that team. But a lot of people are not aware that in a lot of offices and in a lot of settings, like the VA, for example, there are more and more people who are non-physicians essentially running the show. And that scares me because there’s a fraction of the training.
And I think the emphasis that’s put on it a lot of times is, well it’s not rocket science to learn how to treat something. Well, it’s true. I don’t know the first thing about rockets, but I do know how to treat certain things. But the key is diagnosis; it’s so important, and that’s something that people overlook. If you don’t get the right answer to begin with as to what you’re treating, how can you ever expect to get successful treatment?
Second Opinions for PTSD Diagnosis and Care
To finish, Dr. Merchant leaves us with an important piece of advice.
Dr. Merchant: And the last piece I’ll share is, never, ever feel conflicted or guilty about asking for a second opinion ever. I don’t care who you’re seeing.
Aspen: I love that.
Dr. Merchant: I’m comfortable that I have skills that other docs don’t. They have skills that I don’t. There’s no room for ego here. If you ever get attitude from a physician or a therapist, whether it’s getting a second opinion for example, I’m seeing a person for arthritis of the knee and they want to see an orthopedic surgeon. Please don’t let them put you under the knife without talking to me, but please by all means get an opinion. If they want to see another family doc, that’s perfectly reasonable. Because we’re not all cut from the same cloth. We’re all different. We all bring different things to the table.
And so that just gets back to the whole idea that this is not my problem. This is your PTSD. This is your illness. And no one is going to care more about it than you. So that’s very important.
Aspen: Exactly. And no one is going to know better what’s good for you than you.
Recap: Diagnosing PTSD and Choosing Your Care Team
- The stress disorder must be present for one month after the event for a PTSD diagnosis.
- Because it’s important to get the diagnosis right, have a physician-led care team.
- A team-based model of care is good; really consider the professionals you want on your team.
- Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion; it shouldn’t be about ego for doctors.
- You’re the one who cares most about your condition, so you get to decide.
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Still have questions about PTSD and medical cannabis? Contact Elevate Holistics now!
Read Dr. Merchant’s discussion about the causes of PTSD.
Find out more how Dr. Merchant treats PTSD.
Check out this discussion of MMJ vs. Meds for PTSD.
Missouri FAQ page: https://elevate-holistics.com/faqs/medical-marijuana-missouri/
How to book an appt MO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4h39BlWd5c&t=6s
Caregiver questions? https://elevate-holistics.com/blog/medical-vs-recreational-marijuana-in-missouri/
Missouri home cultivation: https://elevate-holistics.com/blog/how-many-marijuana-plants-can-you-grow-in-missouri/