MMJ vs. Anti-Anxiety Meds for PTSD

Recently, Elevate Holistics’ Aspen Jewel and Dr. Merchant went live on FB to discuss and answer viewer questions about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As expected, we learned some interesting information from the doc. Eventually, they got around to the subject of medical marijuana vs. traditional meds for PTSD. 

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. 

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. In this post, you’ll get an idea of what’s involved in finding the right treatment for a PTSD patient—medical cannabis or conventional pharmaceuticals. The doctor’s answer might surprise you. 

Do Antidepressants Work for PTSD Patients?

The doctor opened this portion of the discussion with a pretty interesting statistic.

Dr. Merchant: So, I want to say something like only 10% of antidepressants in the United States are prescribed by psychiatrists. The rest of them come from primary care physicians. But really we don't have that many meds that are indicated or that have been proven effective for PTSD. We usually reach for antidepressants because they do help a lot of people. That said, whether you're looking at depression, anxiety, or PTSD, there's still a significant portion of people who will not respond to a particular drug.

Is MMJ More Tolerable for PTSD Patients?

Dr. Merchant: I always encourage folks. If you're open to drugs and you have a good relationship with your physician. Don't give up, if you're trying the first one and it doesn't work. Most people who have depression, anxiety, or trauma related experiences don't respond well enough. Or maybe they get relief, but they have intolerable side effects. Like, I can't perform in the bedroom or it makes me constipated. Or I would be fine if I wouldn't be face down in my bowl of cereal because I'm passed out because the drugs just knocked me down. That happens a lot with folks.

Aspen: Yeah. That's numbing that you don't want to do.

Dr. Merchant: Exactly. Exactly. And something else to consider is that antidepressants, the most common that we use, I always tell folks to expect nothing but side effects for the first two weeks. Now that doesn't mean you're going to have side effects. I just mean expect no benefit. Because they're going to take a minimum of a couple of weeks to work. And if you're going to have anything, expect those side effects to present early on before any benefit happens.

I tell people that because when you don't, you learn over time that people come back to you a month later, when you're hoping that they're feeling better. And they go, “Oh I quit that crap. Three days of that, I was having this, this, this, and this I couldn't eat. And it wasn't helping me. So why would …” And you go, heck that makes perfect sense. Why would somebody take something that makes them feel worse?

Medical Marijuana to Reduce PTSD Symptoms

Dr. Merchant: So you have to understand it's going to take four to six weeks for meds like that to work. Whereas with marijuana, I guess that it's the double-edged sword. I just most recently read, I can't remember whether it was in 2018 or 19. It showed no long-term changes in benefit or harm for PTSD. So zero effect on a long-term basis, but a 50% reduction in symptoms in the short term. So in other words, somebody using it in the here and now can significantly reduce symptoms. To me that's still reassuring. And the reason is it's the therapy, counseling, lifestyle changes and learning stress reduction techniques that work in the long-term.

Recap: Medical Marijuana vs. Meds for PTSD

  • There are any meds that are proven effective for PTSD.
  • We reach for antidepressants because they help.
  • There are a lot of people who don’t respond to meds 
  • Many people can’t tolerate the side effects of antidepressants
  • Marijuana show not long-term benefit or harm for PTSD
  • MMJ is successful at relieving PTSD symptoms in the short-term and can be used to get patients through long-term therapy and techniques.

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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.

Patient Resources:

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 

Dispensaries near you: https://elevate-holistics.com/find-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-near-me-in-missouri-dhss-map/

Caregiver questions? https://elevate-holistics.com/caregiver-in-missouri-medical-marijuana/

Possession limits: https://elevate-holistics.com/what-exactly-are-the-mmj-possession-limits-in-missouri/

Missouri MMJ & Guns: https://elevate-holistics.com/medical-marijuana-patients-in-missouri-and-gun-laws/

Missouri home cultivation: https://elevate-holistics.com/the-ins-and-outs-of-home-cultivation-for-missouri-medical-marijuana-patients/

Interested in getting a medical card in Arkansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Oklahoma? Click the state and you’ll have all the information you need.