The 4 C’s of Addiction

The 4 C’s of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that affects the reward and motivation centers of the brain. When the brain is repeatedly exposed to a chemical substance, the way it functions in the presence of this substance begins to change. The structure of neural pathways is altered, and over time substance use becomes a compulsion rather than a matter of choice. There are many ways to determine whether or not recreational substance use has started developing into something more serious. One of the simplest ways is by identifying what have become known as The 4 C’s of Addiction.

If you or someone close to you has been struggling with substance use and has had a difficult time quitting or cutting back on their own, there is help available. At Intrepid Detox Residential we have developed an effective treatment program geared towards helping people successfully overcome addiction while actively building fulfilling and meaningful lives in sobriety. To learn more about our treatment program or to learn more about how to identify and diagnose the presence of a substance use disorder, contact us today.

What are the 4 C’s of Addiction?

One simple way to identify an addictive disorder is by considering the presence of the 4 C’s:

  • Craving.
  • Loss of control over the amount or frequency of use.
  • Compulsion to use.
  • Continued use despite consequences.

It can be difficult to condense addiction into such simple terms, especially considering every personal experience with substance use is vastly different. It is important to think of the 4 C’s as a simplified way to determine the presence of an underlying addictive disorder rather than a fool-proof diagnostic tool. If you are concerned that you or someone close to you is suffering from an addictive disorder, the best course of action is to reach out for the advice of a licensed and experienced professional.


As the body and brain adjust to the presence of the chemical substance, the individual will start to experience intense physical and psychological cravings. The experience of craving neurologically mimics a basic physical need, like food, sleep, or water. The brain tells the body, “Hey, if we don’t consume this chemical substance, and quickly, we are at risk of death.” This is part of the reason why overcoming addiction is nearly impossible to do without help. This is also why many people go to such great lengths to continue using their drug of choice, even when it is causing them serious harm.


When a person develops a substance use disorder they lose the ability to control their intake. They might repeatedly attempt to cut back or quit on their own, only to find themselves back to using within a matter of hours, days, or weeks. Loss of control can be scary, especially when it overrides associated consequences.


A compulsion is defined as, “An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.” When substance use becomes compulsive, a person no longer has a choice in whether or not they pick up a drink or a drug. Their actions are being dictated by their addiction entirely. Once substance use becomes compulsive, seeking some degree of professional help becomes necessary.


There are many consequences a person could face as the result of their addiction, including compromised interpersonal relationships, career trouble, financial insecurity, health issues, and even legal problems. Once a substance use disorder develops, a person will be unable to quit on their own despite personal consequences.

Signs & Symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder

Addiction manifests itself in a variety of ways. The specific symptoms vary on a person-to-person basis, but there are several consistent signs to keep an eye out for.

These include:

  • Problems in interpersonal relationships.
  • Issues at work or at school/difficulty keeping up with personal obligations and responsibilities.
  • Changes to physical appearance.
  • Significant and sudden changes to mood.
  • Defensiveness surrounding drinking or drug use.
  • Increased secrecy and increased need for privacy.
  • Frequently feeling sick or under the weather.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) outlines a list of 11 diagnostic criteria that are used to officially diagnose the presence of a substance use disorder. These criteria also help identify whether a substance use disorder is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe. If you answer “yes” to more than two of the following questions, there is a good chance you would benefit from some degree of treatment.

  1. Do you often drink or use drugs more frequently than you intended, or do you use greater amounts of the substance than you originally intended?
  2. Have you attempted to quit on your own with limited success?
  3. Do you experience cravings for alcohol or drugs throughout the day?
  4. Do you spend a significant amount of time obtaining your substance of choice, using your substance of choice, and recovering from its effects?
  5. Have you started to experience problems at work or at school directly related to your alcohol consumption or drug use?
  6. Do you continue to drink or use despite newly developing or worsening physical and psychological symptoms?
  7. Have you been instructed to cut back on your substance use by a licensed healthcare professional?
  8. Do you engage in risk-taking behavior while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, like driving while intoxicated or mixing substances?
  9. Have you started to neglect activities you previously enjoyed?
  10. Have you developed a physical tolerance, meaning more of the substance is required in order for the desired effects to be achieved?
  11. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to cut out your substance of choice entirely?

The level of care you require will depend on the severity of the substance use disorder. If your addiction is moderate or severe or if you simultaneously struggle with a co-occurring disorder, completing a multi-staged treatment program will likely come recommended. At Intrepid Detox Residential we offer a full curriculum of clinical care for people of all ages struggling with substance use disorders of all types and severities. Contact us today to learn more.

If you or someone you love has been struggling with a substance use disorder of any kind, Intrepid Detox Residential is available to help. We have developed a comprehensive recovery program that covers multiple levels of clinical care, guiding clients through the treatment process and making sure they are set up for continued success in sobriety. In many cases, entering into a medical detox center is an important initial step, seeing as the physical symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and uncomfortable when unaddressed. Once a client has been physically stabilized they have the opportunity to transition into the residential portion of our clinical program, where they will continue to heal on a thorough basis. At Intrepid Detox Residential we believe that recovery is always possible as long as a person has access to quality addiction treatment options. To learn more about our treatment program or to begin your personal recovery journey, contact us today.

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