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The Four C's Of Addiction

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Oftentimes the simplest way to define addiction is when these factors unique to addiction - known as the four C's - are present.

1. Compulsion

2. Craving

3. Consequences

4. Control


Compulsion means that an individual experiences an overwhelming urge or desire to use substances. This normally happens in early stages of addiction. By not using, they experience irritability, anxiety, or depression - making it feel like the only way to get rid of those emotions is to use the substance.


A craving is an urge or powerful desire - it is something you feel when you are hungry. When the substance (like drugs or alcohol) is viewed as a vital part of daily routine, an absolute need in your life it becomes a craving.


Consequences of use look different to different individuals. It might be natural consequences like getting kicked out of the house - or it might be legal consequences like being charged with public intoxication or a DUI. However, even with these consequences become apparent, the behavior continues. An individual with an addiction might rationalize: “my partner threw me out but they’re overreacting” or “I don’t have any DUIs”.


Not able to set limits and stick to them is loss of control. An individual might say “I don’t need treatment, I can quit cold turkey”. But when they find out they can’t and they don’t have control - then it’s time for treatment. The four Cs is a simple model to determine if someone is facing addiction.

If you or a loved one are experiencing the four Cs and want to learn more or schedule an assessment, feel free to contact us.

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