Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that arises from electrical disturbances in the brain. These seizures can cause uncontrollable movements, confusion and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is incurable, and treatments to address symptoms are not always effective. As any Chicago Social Security attorney knows, epilepsy often adversely affects victims’ functional abilities and daily lives. Fortunately, epilepsy patients in Illinois may now find relief through medical marijuana treatment.

Possible benefits, complications

In 2014, Illinois lawmakers approved the use of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. Adults and children who suffer from epilepsy may now legally use a special cannabis strain, Charlotte’s Web. This strain contains low levels of psychoactive THC and high levels of the cannabinoid CBD, which offers medical benefits.

The effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating seizures is unclear. Researchers have not clinically tested the efficacy of Charlotte’s Web. One study found that less than one-third of children who used this strain experienced fewer seizures. However, some anecdotal evidence indicates the substance may reduce seizures.

Unfortunately, some people may have difficulty accessing this treatment. State law requires one Illinois doctor to recommend medical marijuana before an adult can use it. Children need two recommendations. Many epilepsy patients see neurologists in neighboring states, who are ineligible to make recommendations. Local doctors may also hesitate to recommend the drug. Thus, many state residents with epilepsy may miss out on this new treatment.

Addressing disabling epilepsy

People who suffer from debilitating, unmanageable epilepsy may face challenges performing regular activities. If epilepsy precludes employment, victims may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. As a Chicago Social Security attorney can explain, victims must first meet financial criteria. Next, victims must prove they meet medical criteria. Victims may qualify for benefits in multiple ways, including the following:

  • Meeting the “Blue Book” listing for convulsive epilepsy. The listing specifies that seizures must occur monthly, despite three months of treatment. These seizures must occur during the day or occur nocturnally and produce daytime fatigue.
  • Meeting the “Blue Book” listing for non-convulsive epilepsy. Under this listing, seizures must occur at least once per week after three months of treatment. The seizures must cause unusual behavior, unconsciousness or other disturbances.
  • Receiving a medical-vocational allowance. If functional limitations associated with epilepsy prevent a person from working, the person may qualify for an allowance.

People seeking SSD benefits should provide extensive documentation. This includes treatment history, EEG results, descriptions of a typical seizure and confirming statements from physicians. Victims also must prove they have followed prescribed treatments. As any Chicago Social Security attorney understands, SSD benefits are not available if medication can effectively manage epilepsy.