An Apple a Day


Simple message: Don’t get high and drive

December 28, 2017

The message has always been clear: drinking alcohol and driving is wrong and the consequences of mixing the two has been devastating to so many.

But just because the law changed for marijuana in California doesn’t make it any more legal -- or any less dangerous -- to be high and drive. Public health, law enforcement and community leaders agree: using marijuana and getting behind the wheel is wrong, and the consequences of mixing the two can be just as devastating.

This message gets more important as the state begins licensing commercial nonmedical cannabis sales on January 1, under the provisions of Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Alcohol-impaired driving is still the most serious problem on our roadways according to the state of California, but the percentage of drivers in fatal collisions who have other impairing substances in their system keeps rising. 

From 2005 to 2015, the percentage of drivers in fatal collisions who had an impairing drug other than alcohol in their system increased from 26.2 percent to 42.6 percent, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  As far back as 2012, a roadside survey in California showed more drivers tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent).  Of the drugs, cannabis was most prevalent at 7.4 percent, even slightly more than alcohol.

Those who choose to use marijuana, like those who drink alcohol, have a duty to act responsibly. Like alcohol, marijuana for non-medical use is now legal, but it can be dangerous if not used responsibly. Some who may balk at the idea of getting behind the wheel after a few beers or glasses of wine may not give it a second thought to drive after a bong hit or toke, or even a special brownie. And they’d be dead wrong.

We all accept the idea of a designated driver or taxi ride for those who drink alcohol, so let’s do the same for those who choose to ingest pot. The message is clear, whether it’s alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs: if you take them, you have a responsibility to avoid driving while you’re impaired. Don’t get high and drive.

Find out more about how Public Health and our health partners assist those with questions about marijuana and its health effects. To learn more, go to

The County of Riverside Department of Public Health wants your best health! Visit us on Twitter @rivcodoc or Google +.  And be sure to check out our Facebook page.

The flu shot is your best shot at preventing the flu

December 12, 2017

Flu season is never easy to predict. Several months into the flu season, there have been recent news reports and social media postings concerning the effectiveness of the current influenza vaccine, with some suggesting the vaccine is only 10 percent effective.

It would be unfortunate if those reports led to people deciding to forgo their flu shot or decide not to get the vaccination for their children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says even though the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine can range widely from season to season, the flu shot is the most effective method available to prevent getting the flu and its associated complications. Unfortunately, the CDC says, less than half of the U.S. population actually got the shot in recent influenza seasons.

At this point it’s too early to clearly pinpoint the effectiveness of the current vaccine. The reports on the effectiveness of the current vaccine are based on initial results in Australia, which, while informative, don’t necessarily reflect what will happen in the U.S. Currently, the vast majority of the influenza viruses the CDC has found circulating are covered by the vaccine already.

In addition, it’s been shown that those who get influenza after getting the flu shot have less severe symptoms, even in those years where the flu shot actually does turn out to be less of a match.

According to the CDC, influenza vaccination prevents millions of infections and medical visits and tens of thousands of influenza-associated hospitalizations each year in the U.S., even when the effective rate is between 30 and 60 percent. Even if it were just 10 percent, that’s still a 10 percent reduction in your chances of getting sick from it.
In addition to vaccination, there are other things you can do to stop the spread of the flu:

Wash your hands: Every year, millions of patients become needlessly sickened by an infectious disease. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly can go a long way in preventing illness. And even though we certainly want them to get well, avoid hugs, kisses and hand-shaking with someone who is ill.

Stay home: If you fall ill, by all means stay home so that you will not spread the flu to others. The CDC recommends that you “stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.”