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by Joyia Emard

La Semana Nacional de la Protección del Consumidor es del 28 de febrero al 6 de marzo

This post originally appeared in English; to view it, click here.

La misión del Departamento de Asuntos del Consumidor (DCA, por sus siglas en inglés) de California es proteger a los consumidores californianos por medio de diferentes maneras, como la supervisión, la aplicación de la ley y la concesión de licencias a las profesiones. Además, nos esforzamos por informarle al público sobre sus derechos como consumidores y brindar recursos para empoderarlos.

Este año, la Semana Nacional de la Protección del Consumidor (NCPW, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Comisión Federal de Comercio es una opción para que el DCA –junto con nuestros socios federales, estatales y locales de todo el país– se pongan en contacto con los consumidores para informarles sobre los recursos que ofrece el DCA, para recomendarles que conozcan más sobre ellos, y para ayudarlos a comprender sus derechos y a tomar decisiones bien informadas.

Si alguna vez tuvo un problema con un contratista, con un veterinario, con un taller de reparación de automóviles o con una cosmetóloga, o se encontró con alguien que se hizo pasar por un profesional autorizado, comprenderá por qué es importante conocer cuáles son sus derechos y utilizar solo los servicios de profesionales autorizados, es decir, que tienen licencia. Una forma de protegerse de los fraudes, de las estafas y de los perjuicios financieros es verificar la licencia antes de entregar el dinero o de firmar el contrato. El DCA regula muchas industrias y las personas que están autorizadas para trabajar en ellas. Si tiene un problema, un conflicto o un desacuerdo con un profesional, puede dirigirse al DCA para presentar su queja.

El DCA también defiende los intereses de los consumidores ante los legisladores y hace cumplir las leyes del consumidor. Nuestro personal encargado de velar por el cumplimiento de la ley colabora con la oficina del fiscal general de California y con los fiscales del distrito locales para luchar contra el fraude en el mercado. De hecho, muchas investigaciones se inician a raíz de quejas de los consumidores. Si el DCA determina que existe una infracción, puede tomar medidas contra una licencia.

El DCA otorga licencias, certificados, registros y permisos en más de 250 categorías empresariales y profesionales por medio de 37 entidades reguladoras compuestas por juntas, oficinas, comités, un programa y una comisión. Estas 37 entidades establecen y hacen cumplir las cualificaciones mínimas de las profesiones y vocaciones que regulan, entre las que se encuentran casi todos los ámbitos sanitarios de California. Para comprobar si el DCA regula el sector sobre el que puede tener una queja, haga clic aquí. Hay muchos sectores comunes que el DCA no regula, por lo que es importante verificarlo antes de presentar su queja.

El DCA informa a los consumidores por medio de nuestra revista premiada Consumer Connection; nuestras páginas de Facebook, Twitter y YouTube; nuestro blog The DCA Page, y los videos de The Peel. Conozca más sobre nosotros en nuestra publicación Who We Are & What We Do. Esta publicación también está en español: Quiénes somos, qué hacemos.

Si necesita verificar una licencia o presentar una queja contra un licenciatario, llame a nuestro Centro de Información al Consumidor al (800) 952-5210 o visite www.dca.ca.gov.

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National Consumer Protection Week is February 28-March 6

The mission of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is to protect California consumers through numerous avenues including oversight, enforcement, and licensure of professions. We also work hard to educate the public about their rights as consumers and provide resources to empower them.

This year, the Federal Trade Commission’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is an opportunity for DCA—and our federal, state, and local partners across the country— to connect with consumers about the resources DCA offers, encourage the public to learn more about the resources DCA provides, and help consumers understand their rights and make well-informed decisions.

If you’ve ever had a bad experience a contractor, veterinarian, automotive repair shop, cosmetologist, or encountered someone posing as a licensed professional, you understand why it’s important to know your rights and use the services of only licensed professionals. One way to protect yourself from fraud, scams, and financial harm is to check the license before money changes hands or contracts are signed. DCA regulates many industries and the people licensed to work in them. If you have an issue, dispute, or disagreement with a professional, you can turn to DCA to submit your complaint.

DCA also advocates consumer interests before lawmakers and enforces consumer laws. Our enforcement staff works with the California Attorney General’s Office and local district attorneys to fight fraud in the marketplace. In fact, many investigations are initiated by consumer complaints. If DCA determines wrongdoing, it can take action against a license.

DCA issues licenses, certificates, registrations and permits in over 250 business and professional categories through 37 regulatory entities comprised of boards, bureaus, committees, a program, and a commission. These 37 entities set and enforce minimum qualifications for the professions and vocations they regulate, which include nearly all of California’s healthcare fields. To check if DCA regulates the industry you may have a complaint about, click here. There are many common industries DCA does not regulate so it is important to check before reaching out to submit your complaint.

DCA works to educate consumers through our award-winning magazine Consumer Connection; our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages; The DCA Page blog; and The Peel videos. Learn more about us in our publication Who We Are & What We Do. This publication is also available in Spanish: Quienes Somos y Que Hacemos.

If you need to verify a license or file a complaint against a licensee, call our Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 or visit www.dca.ca.gov.

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Prevention is key, but contact a licensed professional for assistance

The floorboard of a wall is covered with splotches of mold.Mold can take a hold just about anywhere in your home: bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and more. Learn more about this household issue and how to prevent and control it from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

ABOUT MOLD AND MOISTURE

Molds are living organisms that grow in damp places in your home. These numerous organisms can stain or discolor surfaces and smell musty.

Mold can grow almost anywhere in your home: on walls, ceilings, carpets, or furniture. Humidity or wetness—caused by water leaks, spills from bathtubs or showers, or condensation—can cause mold to grow in your home.

Mold spores are tiny particles that float through the air. These can sometimes cause health problems, and different people are affected differently when mold is breathed or inhaled. People with allergies to mold may get:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny or stuffed noses
  • Itching
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Asthma attacks for those with this health condition

In addition, some molds produce toxins (poisons) that may be hazardous if you are exposed to large amounts of these molds. Mold spores and their mycotoxins can also pose a serious health threat to individuals who have compromised immune systems.

PREVENTING AND CONTROLLING MOLD

To prevent mold:

  • Keep your house clean and dry.
  • Fix water problems such as roof leaks, wet basements, and leaking pipes or faucets.
  • Make sure your home is well ventilated and always use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • If possible, keep humidity in your house below 50% by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
  • Avoid using carpeting in areas of the home that may become wet, such as kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
  • Dry floor mats regularly.

To find mold that might be growing in your home:

  • Search for moisture in areas that have a damp or moldy smell, especially in basements, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  • Look for water stains or colored, fuzzy growth on and around ceilings, walls, floors, windowsills, and pipes.
  • If you smell a musty odor, search behind and underneath materials such as carpeting, furniture, or stored items.
  • Inspect kitchens, bathrooms, and basements for standing water, water stains and patches of out-of-place color.

To control moisture problems and mold:

  • Fix any water problems immediately and clean or remove wet materials, furnishings, or mold.
  • Clean up spills or floods within one day. If practical, take furniture that has been wet outside to dry and clean. Direct sunlight prevents mold growth.
  • Dry all surfaces and fix the problem or leak to prevent further damage.
  • Install a dehumidifier when a moisture problem is evident or when the humidity is high.

INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE

The California Department of Public Health has further information in multiple languages to help homeowners and renters address mold. If you contact a contractor to do related repairs, check that the professional is licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ (DCA) Contractors State License Board. If you have health concerns that you suspect may be related to mold, contact one of the many health professionals licensed by DCA. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Clockwise from upper left: A Highlands Eichler home, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Union Station, and Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Clockwise from upper left: A Highlands Eichler home, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Union Station, and Cathedral of Christ the Light.

People and groups behind the places

The place names might be well-known—Hearst Castle, Ahwahnee Hotel, Union Station—but do you know the architects behind the buildings? Get to know 25 of California’s must-see structures and their architects, as compiled by USA Today and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council:

  1. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles—Frank Gehry.
  2. Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite—Gilbert Stanley Underwood.
  3. Hearst Castle, San Simeon—Julia Morgan.
  4. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey—EHDD.
  5. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, San Diego—Fr. Jose Bernardo Sanchez.
  6. Condominium One, Sea Ranch—Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker.
  7. Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco—William Pereira.
  8. Wayfarers Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes—Lloyd Wright.
  9. The Highlands, San Mateo—Joseph Eichler.
  10. Hallidie Building, San Francisco—Willis Polk.
  11. Marston House, San Diego—Irving John Gill.
  12. Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael—Frank Lloyd Wright.
  13. Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland—Craig Hartman/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
  14. Union Station, Los Angeles—John and Donald Parkinson (station)/Mary Colter (restaurant).
  15. Oakland Museum, Oakland—Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates/Mark Cavagnero Associates (renovation).
  16. Eames House, Los Angeles—Charles and Ray Eames.
  17. Neurosciences Institute, San Diego—Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects.
  18. Mission Inn, Riverside—Arthur B. Benton/Myron Hunt/G. Stanley Wilson.
  19. Crown Zellerbach Building, San Francisco—Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
  20. Salk Institute, La Jolla—Louis Kahn.
  21. King’s Road House/Schindler House, West Hollywood—Rudolph M. Schindler.
  22. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum, San Francisco—Herzog & de Meuron/Fong & Chan Architects/Hood Design.
  23. Frey House II, Palm Springs—Albert Frey.
  24. Hollyhock House, East Hollywood—Frank Lloyd Wright.
  25. Gamble House, Pasadena—Charles and Henry Greene.

The majority of these architecturally renowned locations are accessible to the public, so start planning your future California architectural journey today! For information on California’s licensed architects—or to help you design and implement your own project—visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Giant cranes offload shipping containers from a cargo vessel.Shipping containers are a creative housing option

Your new home could be on the back of a big rig, chugging by on a freight train, flying in a cargo plane, or cruising into port. People are increasingly upcycling shipping containers into new housing, and you could be one of them.

SUPPLY CHAIN CREATES SUPPLY OF STRUCTURES

Intermodal containers—commonly called shipping containers—have been in heavy commercial cargo and freight use since the 1960s, now numbering over 17 million in current global circulation. Their uniform “dry cargo” measurements (typically 8 feet by 20 or 40 feet), sturdy metal construction, and security standards allow them to be packed with goods and easily transferred via standard equipment from boat, to train, to truck in order to get items to market—and in your hands.

But what happens to the containers once they’ve made it to the end of the road? Sometimes, it’s the end of the road for the containers. While the intermodal containers often are repacked and sent back where they came from or on to other ports of call, continuing the reuse cycle, many reach their destinations and simply stay put due to logistics or return costs.

An apartment complex made of shipping containers.Those leave-behinds offer ample opportunities for other types of reuse, namely in new lives as structures. According to REAL Trends, there are more than 14 million out-of-service shipping containers around the world, some of which are now being used to construct residential houses, multi-housing developments, student accommodations, and shopping malls.

CONSIDERING ‘CARGOTECHTURE’

If you’re feeling inspired to make a landlocked shipping container into your new home, here are some things to consider according to Inhabitat:

Benefits

  • Cost-effective—Containers’ shape and size make them ideal for repurposing into buildings. Compared to building a similar structure with brick and mortar, on average, containers can be 30% cheaper. However, the savings will depend on the location and what type of home you are building.
  • Stability—These tough-as-nails steel containers are designed to carry tons of merchandise across rough ocean tides. Earthquakes and hurricanes are virtually no match for them, which make containers an excellent choice for building a home in areas prone to natural disasters.
  • Speed—Traditional structures can take months to build, but a very simple container conversion can be as fast as two to three weeks.
  • Recycling—Repurposing the containers instead of scrapping and melting them can save a lot of energy and carbon emissions while preventing the use of and reliance upon traditional materials.
  • Safety—Good luck breaking into an all-metal shipping container!

A two-story home made of shipping containers features wood cladding and landscaping.Considerations

  • Green living—Some people are using brand-new containers instead of recycling old ones, and this completely defeats the purpose of container recycling. In addition, energy is required for modifications like sandblasting and cutting openings, and fossil fuels are often needed to move the container, making a recycled container’s ecological footprint larger than you might think.
  • Health—Shipping containers aren’t made with habitation in mind. Many shipping containers have lead-based paints on the walls and chemicals like arsenic in the floors. You must investigate and deal with these issues before moving in.
  • Temperature—Some of the biggest concerns are insulation and heat control. Large steel boxes are really good at absorbing and transmitting heat and cold. Therefore, controlling the temperature inside your shipping container can be a challenge and must be addressed for it to be habitable.
  • Building codes—With shipping-container structures still being relatively new, they have caused some issues with local building codes. You should always check to see if they meet your local regulations.

For help with shipping-container construction, contact a licensed professional: Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ California Architects Board can help you plan your intramodal home and licensees of the Contractors State License Board can make it happen, ensuring all building codes, permit requirements, and safety standards are followed. To check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: Tiny Homes Are a Huge Trend

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A child lock prevents a toddler from opening a cabinet.Little things can make a big safety difference

Have a little one on the way? You’ll want to know about these 12 items recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that can make a big difference when it comes to your child’s safety:

  1. Safety latches and locks—Latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines, household cleaners, matches, or cigarette lighters, as well as knives and other sharp objects. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away and kept out of reach. This packaging is not childproof. Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily use but are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children.
  2. Safety gates—Help prevent falls down stairs and keep children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers by using safety gates. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, only use gates that screw into the wall. All new gates must meet current safety standards: Replace or avoid older safety gates, especially those that have “V” shapes that are large enough to entrap a child’s head and neck.
  3. Door knob covers and door locks—These items prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers. Be sure the door knob covers are sturdy and allow doors to be opened quickly by an adult in case of an emergency.
  4. Anti-scald devices—Anti-scald devices regulate water temperature and can help reduce the likelihood of burns. Also be sure to set your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees to help prevent burns.
  5. Smoke alarms—Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas to alert you to fires. Smoke alarms are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke alarms once a month to make sure they’re working, and change batteries at least once a year or consider using 10-year batteries for alarms.
  6. Window guards and locks—These items help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings. Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. Use them to limit window openings to four inches or less, including the space between the window guard bars. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Remember: Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
  7. Corner and edge bumpers—Bumpers help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Look for bumpers that stay or stick securely on furniture or hearth edges.
  8. Outlet covers and plates—Help prevent electrocution with outlet covers and outlet plates, which can help protect children from electrical shock and possible electrocution. Be sure outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them. If you are replacing receptacles, use a tamper-resistant type.
  9. Carbon monoxide alarms—These alarms specifically alert you to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Install these items near sleeping areas and change their batteries at least once a year.
  10. Cordless window coverings—The commission recommends using cordless window coverings in homes with young children to help prevent strangulation. Children can wrap window covering cords around their necks or can pull cords that are not clearly visible, but are accessible, and become entangled in the loops. If you have window blinds from 2000 or earlier and you cannot afford new, cordless window coverings, call the Window Covering Safety Council at (800) 506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org for a free repair kit. In addition, window blinds that have an inner cord (for raising the slats of the blinds) can be pulled by a child and form a potentially deadly loop. Consumers should immediately repair these types of blinds. Please note that these free retrofit kits do not address the dangling pull cord hazard associated with many common window blinds.
  11. Furniture and appliance anchors—Deaths and injuries occur when children climb onto, fall against, or pull themselves up on television stands, shelves, bookcases, dressers, desks, chests, and ranges so, for added security, anchor these products to the floor or attach them to a wall. Free-standing ranges and stoves should be installed with anti-tip brackets.
  12. A pool fence prevents a toddler from falling in.Layers of protection for pools and spas—Pools and spas should be surrounded by safety features including fences with self-closing, self-latching gates. If your house serves as a side of the barrier, doors heading to the pool should have an alarm or the pool should have a power safety cover. Pool alarms can serve as an additional layer of protection. Remember: Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are not an effective barrier to pools.

The good news is that the risk of injury can be reduced or prevented by using child-safety devices and reminding older children in the house to re-secure safety devices after disabling them. Most of these safety devices are easy to find and are relatively inexpensive. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home improvement stores, on the internet, and through mail-order catalogs. Safety devices should be sturdy enough to hinder access and yet easy for you to use. To be effective, they must be properly installed: Follow installation instructions carefully.

However, no device is completely childproof—determined youngsters have been known to overcome or disable them. While these items can and do make a vital difference for children’s safety, there is ultimately no substitute for close and careful parental supervision.

For assistance in installing these devices in your home, and for other around-the-house safety improvement help, contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Contractors State License Board; to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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A taxi zooms down a busy city street bordered by green trees on each side.A new study correlates increased numbers of street trees to reduced antidepressant prescriptions, emphasizing the positive role even the smallest and simplest amounts of urban greenspace can play in our mental health.

Experts from Germany’s Leipzig University and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research analyzed health data from almost 10,000 inhabitants of the mid-size city of Leipzig. By combining that data with the number and species types of street trees throughout the city, the researchers were able to identify the association between antidepressant prescriptions and the number of street trees at different distances from people’s homes.

Even after controlling for other factors known to be associated with depression—such as employment, gender, age, and weight—the researchers found that, the more trees that were immediately around homes and apartments (closer than about 300 feet), the less likely the residents were to take antidepressants.

A man wearing a backpack walks on a city sidewalk bordered by trees.“Our finding suggests that street trees—a small scale, publicly accessible form of urban greenspace—can help close the gap in health inequalities between economically different social groups,” said lead author Dr. Melissa Marselle.

“Our study shows that everyday nature close to home—the biodiversity you see out of the window or when walking or driving to work, school, or shopping—is important for mental health,” added study researcher Dr. Diana Bowler, noting that these mental health findings are especially important now in times of pandemic stay-at-home needs.

Landscape architects licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Landscape Architects Technical Committee are trained, educated, and dedicated to implementing a wide variety of green spaces into our communities—and our lives. Find out more about their services at www.latc.ca.gov. For assistance with tree pruning and upkeep, contact a tree service contractor licensed by the Contractors State License Board.  If you are concerned that you may be experiencing depression, reach out for professional help: Licensees of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board of Psychology and Board of Behavioral Sciences can assist, as can specialists of the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California. Check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

Related Reading: The True Value of Trees; Study: Living Near Green Spaces Means Lower Smoking Rates

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A vet and registered vet tech comfort a bulldog after vaccination.Don’t ignore reminders; contact a licensed veterinary professional

Looking in your mailbox, you see a cheerful postcard from your veterinarian’s office: “Make an appointment for your pet’s rabies vaccination today!” It’s easy to toss the card aside to the recycling, but this simple reminder is easier to appreciate—and act upon—when you remember that a rabies vaccine doesn’t just help protect pets, but humans as well.

Rabies is a fatal but preventable viral neurological disease, with references stretching back thousands of years in history. This communicable virus spreads through direct contact—primarily bites—between mammals: from animal to animal, and animal to human. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus’ incubation period can last weeks to months, dependent upon the site of the bite, the type of rabies virus, and any immunity in the animal or person exposed. Symptoms of rabies can appear somewhat similar in both animals and humans, including lethargy, abnormal behavior, agitation, aggression, and fear of water.

Rabies has been largely eliminated in the United States thanks to decades of ongoing vaccination and animal-control campaigns, which have been hailed as major modern-day public and animal health successes. However, even with this outstanding progress, the CDC notes hundreds of thousands of U.S. animals need to be placed under observation or be tested for rabies every year, and between 30,000 to 60,000 people need to receive rabies postexposure treatment annually. In addition, the disease still kills more than 50,000 people worldwide each year: a number that is considered a major undercount.

The CDC outlines four major steps for rabies prevention:

  1. Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations current for all cats and dogs.
  2. Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision.
  3. Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
  4. Call animal control to remove all stray animals from your neighborhood since these animals may be unvaccinated or ill.

Licensed California veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians are experts in animal health whose vital work also impacts humans’ health and well-being. Find out more about these professionals from the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board, and check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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Outside of churches, barbershops and beauty salons are the bastion for the Black/African-American community because of their established authenticity and credibility.

Within these establishments, everything from A to Z is covered through in-depth conversations, lively debate, and banter between all ages. Conversely, necessary information is gathered and shared with all by relaying common experiences among a trusted group of people—like family.

Photo Credit: Cedars-Sinai

Because of that trust and familiarity, health outreach programs targeting Black men are using Black barbershops as a vehicle to promote health and wellness education.

Across the nation, varying outreach programs utilizing Black barbershops have made health care access more comfortable and accessible. They have encouraged participants to change their behavior and adopt healthier habits regarding exercise and nutrition. Efforts have made positive strides in communities that traditionally don’t use the health care system to manage chronic conditions. For instance, screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and H.I.V. can all be performed before or after a cut and shave.

Their success and efforts have made a difference because many Black men will visit a barbershop more frequently than a doctor’s office or health clinic.

In California, both health care providers and barbers are licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ boards and bureaus; to verify a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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A man at a poker table holds his head in his hands.Learn do’s and don’ts to help those affected

The roar of the racetrack, the roll of the dice, or the ring of the slot machine can be exciting, but they also can be concerning and even damaging for millions of Americans struggling with gambling addiction.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), which runs the toll-free National Problem Gambling Helpline—(800) 522-4700—2 million U.S. adults are estimated to meet the criteria for severe gambling problems in any given year, with another 4 to 6 million considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems. The council notes that the amount of money lost or won does not determine when gambling becomes problematic. In fact, gambling becomes a problem when it causes a negative impact on any area of a person’s life.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says gambling disorder, gambling addiction, or compulsive gambling involve repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress. APA notes that, for some people, gambling does indeed become an addiction—the effects they get from gambling are similar to effects someone with alcoholism gets from alcohol. Individuals can crave gambling the way someone craves alcohol or other substances, and the activity can lead to problems with finances, relationships, and work, not to mention potential legal issues. Some gamblers are seeking excitement or action in gambling, while others are looking more for escape or numbing. Symptoms of the disorder or addiction include:

  • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Restlessness or irritability when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on, or stop gambling.
  • Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, or thinking of ways to get money to gamble).
  • Often gambling when feeling distressed.
  • After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses).
  • Lying to conceal gambling activity.
  • Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity because of gambling.
  • Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.

If you are concerned about a loved one who may be exhibiting these types of symptoms, APA offers do’s and don’ts to assist:

Do:

  • Seek the support of others with similar problems; attend a self-help group for families such as Gam-Anon.
  • Recognize your loved one’s good qualities.
  • Remain calm when speaking to your loved one about his or her gambling and its consequences.
  • Let your loved one know that you are seeking help for your own sake because of the way gambling affects you (and possibly your children).
  • Explain problem gambling to children.
  • Understand the need for treatment of problem gambling despite the time it may involve.
  • Set boundaries in managing money; take control of family finances; review bank and credit card statements.

Don’t:

  • Preach, lecture, or allow yourself to lose control of your anger.
  • Exclude the gambler from family life and activities.
  • Expect immediate recovery, or that all problems will be resolved when the gambling stops.
  • Bail out the gambler.
  • Cover up or deny the existence of the problem to yourself, the family, or others.

APA also cautions that problem gamblers are at increased risk of suicide, and that it’s very important to take any thoughts or talk of suicide seriously. For immediate attention, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or 911 if the individual is in crisis.

Department of Consumer Affairs mental-health licensees are vital resources for those dealing with gambling addiction and those concerned about them, and licensed fiduciaries and certified public accountants also can advise and assist on related financial issues. To check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.

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