Characteristics of Addiction: What Are the 4 Cs?

Addiction is a complicated condition that affects millions of people each year. Usually, there are several stages of addiction that are followed as a substance use disorder progresses. For example, these generally include tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. These are physical traits that indicate the presence of a substance use disorder. Similarly, a few behavioral characteristics of addiction have also been noted. Designated the four Cs, these traits provide additional insight into the development of addiction.

Characteristics of Addiction

Definition of Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction can be defined as the compulsive need to use drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences that the substance use is having on a person’s life. Often, components of addiction include the following:

  • Drug tolerance: Needing more of the drug to have the same effect
  • Drug dependence: When the body needs a drug to function normally
  • Withdrawals: Negative physical and mental health symptoms that start when not taking a drug or using alcohol

While these indicators provide valuable methods of determining physical dependence, they do not account for the psychological aspects that often drive the addiction.

Why Do People Use Drugs?

The reasons why people start using drugs are as individual as the person themself. Examples of why people do drugs include to feel good, to alleviate boredom, to fit in, or to perform better at a given task. Regardless of the reasons for beginning use, drugs and alcohol turn on the reward system in the brain. Therefore, regular drug use will lead to a shift in the brain’s chemistry, and addiction is invited to form. This is where the four C’s of cravings, compulsion, consequences, and control come into play. Understanding these characteristics can provide insight as to how to recognize a budding addiction. 

The 4 Characteristics of Addiction

Addiction usually takes time to develop. Therefore, the characteristics of addictive thinking evolve as substance use continues. Some common characteristics of addiction are cravings and compulsion, the first two Cs. These characteristics refer to the engine behind the addiction. These are followed by consequences of addiction, and lastly, control (or lack thereof).

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1. Cravings

Clearly, drug addiction cannot begin without drug use. Once drug use becomes routine, the brain becomes conditioned to expecting the chemical reaction that the drug provides. Drug or alcohol cravings develop when the brain starts seeking this chemical reward, which greatly encourages a person to continue to use. Certain people, places, or environments can trigger drug cravings seemingly out of nowhere, making them hard to kick.

2. Compulsion

The compulsion characteristic of addiction exemplifies the psychological drive to use drugs or alcohol. Often times this can be described as an uncontrollable urge or overwhelming desire to use. This can be all-consuming or come in waves, but is incredibly difficult to ignore. The compulsion characteristic of addiction is where the choice to use drugs or alcohol is beginning to be overridden by the perceived need to use. 

3. Consequences

Consequences of Addiction

The consequences of addiction refer to the negative impact that drug or alcohol abuse is having on a person’s life. Examples of consequences can range from simply having to function with a hangover to extensive criminal activity. This can also include things like the loss of a job, financial instability, or problems with family or health. When someone is addicted to a substance, drug use will continue despite these detrimental effects. 

4. Control

The loss of control when choosing whether or not to use substances may be the pivotal point in addiction development. It is during this stage that a person will prioritize drug use over everything else. Eventually, this could lead to rock bottom. While addiction treatment may be beneficial when any of the characteristics of addiction are noted, once control is lost, drug and alcohol rehab may be crucial.

Risks of Addiction

It is important to emphasize that there are no personality traits or characteristics of addiction that will guarantee that someone will develop a substance use disorder. Rather, they are merely indicators or processes that bring attention to the fact that addiction could occur. Despite this, there are a few patterns that predispose some people towards addiction. A few examples of these include:

  • Genetics: Research has indicated that genetics do play a role in whether or not someone will become addicted to a substance. However, genes alone will not guarantee that a person will become an addict. Rather, it is one piece of a puzzle.
  • Environment: A stressful family or peer environment, or exposure to drugs through these influences also increase risk of addiction.
  • Trauma: Traumatic experiences at any time in life are prominent risk factors of substance abuse. Examples of trauma include childhood abuse or PTSD from military service or sexual assault.
  • Mental Health: Co-occurring mental health disorders increase the likelihood that a person will abuse drugs or alcohol. Often, this is due to the desire to lessen the symptoms of the mental illness. Unfortunately, substance abuse usually has the opposite effect of worsening mental health conditions.

Research has focused on characteristics of addiction and addictive personality traits for decades to discover why some people become addicted to drugs and alcohol and others do not. While findings have provided valuable patterns, it is important to recognize that no specific criteria that guarantee someone will become an addict.

Usually, the reasons for substance abuse are not rooted in one source. Instead, it’s a combination of numerous factors that influence a person’s decision to begin using drugs and the likelihood that they will actually become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Drug Rehab in Las Vegas, Nevada

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, rest assured that you are not alone. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment methods for drug addiction leaving you with options in how to approach drug treatment. However, when searching for drug rehabs, make sure the facility is accredited with qualified treatment teams.

Usually, addiction therapy begins after drug detox. This ensures that no drug remains in your system, and focus on behavioral components of drug use can begin. Following detox, it is common to enroll in a residential treatment program in order to be able to fully focus on recovering.

At the Vance Johnson Recovery Center in Nevada, Las Vegas, we realize that committing to addiction treatment is a big step in acknowledging drug addiction and are committed to you both before, during, and after treatment at our facility. You will be fully supported in your transition to recovery.

To get started on your recovery from drug use, contact one of our admissions specialists at 888-828-2623, or use our confidential online form to ask us anything that comes to mind.

You can take your life back from drug addiction. And at the Vance Johnson Recovery Center, we can help.


Las Vegas Addiction Recovery

Located in dynamic Las Vegas, Nevada, the Vance Johnson Recovery Center (VJRC) a 44-bed facility is run by a skilled multi-disciplinary team of medical and behavioral health professionals that includes nurses, counselors, and doctors, along with complementary and alternative medicine specialists to provide our clients with a transformational experience that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. Our approach is holistic and grounded in research and evidenced-based best practices that help people develop the awareness and skills required to achieve and sustain recovery.

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