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Compulsive looking woman. Understanding the Four Cs of Addiction

A Closer Look: Understanding the Four Cs of Addiction

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We understand what addiction is, but how much do we know about how it happens? Addiction’s complex interactions with certain areas of the brain is a key part of why it can be so difficult to overcome.

Addiction is a complicated, multi-faceted condition that is still being explored by researchers. Rooted in a variety of environmental, genetic, and biological factors, and definitively linked to the brain’s reward centre, addiction occurs when a psychological and sometimes physical dependency is formed on a substance or a behaviour. A simple framework called “The Four Cs” helps people get a sense of how addiction takes hold of the brain and what the effects are, and provides an important starting point in better understanding this complex condition.

The First C: Compulsion

“Addiction, at its worst, is akin to having Stockholm Syndrome. You’re like a hostage who has developed an irrational affection for your captor. They can abuse you, torture you, even threaten to kill you, and you’ll remain inexplicably and disturbingly loyal.”

 – Anne Clendening, writer and yoga instructor

You have tried it, you like it, and now you feel like you need it. When this feeling becomes an unstoppable impulse, even when you know that negative consequences lie ahead, you’ve experienced compulsion.

Compulsion in addiction is associated with neurological changes that occur as a dependency is formed. When we take in something that is potentially addictive, this activates the brain’s reward centre and triggers a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine stimulates positive, motivating feelings about the addictive substance or behaviour that propel us to continue using it.

If this process is repeated over time, the brain actually adapts to the increased levels of dopamine, leading to the development of tolerance and a need for more of the addictive substance or behaviour in order to experience the same feelings of pleasure. This “rewiring” of the brain is part of what makes addiction so difficult to break without professional support.

The Second C: Control

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer

The rewiring of the brain by addiction erodes self-control, making it extremely difficult to resist urges to engage in addictive behaviour. While past stereotypes of addiction blamed this phenomenon on individual willpower or moral code, it is now understood that the neurological changes that occur during addiction is what compromises a person’s ability to control their behaviour. 

These changes affect the prefrontal cortex, which controls decision-making, regulates impulses, and measures consequences. Addiction makes these actions less effective over time, and contributes to the weakened ability of the person to manage their actions.

This is particularly evident when someone with an addiction realises that their use has become problematic and tries to cut back or quit. The challenge of doing so underscores the significance of the brain’s adaptation to the addiction, and the need for specialised support to repair these damaged neural networks. Like heart disease or diabetes, addiction requires specific, informed treatment in order to successfully manage it.

The Third C: Cravings

“Addiction – when you can give something up anytime, as long as it’s next Tuesday.”

Nikki Sixx, musician

The intensified compulsion and erosion of self-control during addiction can result in strong and even irresistible cravings. This occurs when the brain’s dopamine levels crash, leaving people feeling irritable, depressed and uncomfortable, triggering the need to feed the addiction. Cravings can become particularly severe during withdrawal, and are a significant factor in relapse.

Managing cravings, especially during the initial phase of withdrawal, is something most successfully and safely done under medical supervision. As the recovery process continues, rehabilitation specialists can help people learn skills to manage cravings and redirect patterns of behaviour towards healthy activities in order to boost mood and foster enjoyment.

The Fourth C: Consequences

“Rehab isn’t what finally got me sober. It was nearly losing everything and finally seeing that whatever benefit I thought alcohol gave me was outweighed by what it would cost me.” 

Elizabeth Vargas, television journalist

As addiction becomes the top priority in a person’s life, serious consequences to one’s personal and professional life begin to emerge. This can include legal problems, financial strain, job loss, and the breakdown of romantic or family relationships. People who are addicted may experience health problems as well, as addiction weakens the immune system and disrupts sleep and appetite, undermining fundamental components of overall health. Certain substances or behaviours may put people at risk for damage to respiratory, circulatory or neurological systems, potentially resulting in long-term health issues. 

For many people with addiction, recognising the consequences of this dependency is a key factor in reaching out for help in overcoming it. 

How Do You Treat Addiction?

Being addicted isn’t a life sentence. Professional treatment can provide the support people need to overcome addiction and live a full, happy, healthy life. Treating addiction is a holistic process that targets the mind and body, working to rebuild neural pathways that have been damaged and developing healthy habits to cope with stress and promote wellness. 

Detox: The first step of recovery for substance misusers

Alcohol and certain types of drugs require medically-supervised detox in order to safely treat physical dependency before beginning to address the other aspects of the addiction. However, stopping these substances can cause severe symptoms of withdrawal that may require immediate medical intervention. Contacting a doctor or an addiction specialist is an important first step in creating a safe, medically-supported detox plan to make you as comfortable as possible during this initial stage of recovery. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, is an effective and widely practised method of therapy often used for those looking to overcome addiction. CBT identifies the root causes of addiction, explores problematic patterns of thought and behaviour, and elicits ways in which to constructively address and shift these patterns. As part of this method, clients and therapists also discuss and practise alternative, healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and dealing with challenging situations to improve resilience and lower the risk of relapse.

Group therapy

Group therapy offers a unique and affirming experience to those in recovery. Surrounded by people with similar challenges and life experiences, participants benefit from informed support, knowledge, and advice from their peers and a skilled, compassionate facilitator. This also allows participants a glimpse into different stages of recovery, helping to broaden a sense of what life outside of addiction is like.

Wellness practices

From yoga to jogging to mindfulness meditation, wellness practices help to strengthen the body and provide a healthy outlet for stress and tension. As those in recovery seek to expand their coping mechanisms past substance dependency, engaging in different types of wellness practices helps to find new ways of relaxation and natural methods of boosting mood.

Overcoming Addiction at The Dawn

Overcoming Addiction at The Dawn - Group therapy session

The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand offers a Signature Addiction Programme for individuals suffering from substance addiction; behavioural addictions and co-occurring disorders. The fundamental objective of our programme is for clients to achieve and maintain long-term recovery by equipping each individual with a personalised set of coping tools to use when dealing with life’s challenges, extinguishing the desire to use again.

Our programme is delivered by a compassionate, internationally-trained team of psychotherapists. Each component, from the timeframe to supporting services, has been designed to maximise outcomes for the client.  

Addiction treatment in Thailand

The only rehab in Asia-Pacific to be accredited by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities), The Dawn offers tailor-made programmes that cater to each individual’s needs by using a comprehensive, holistic treatment method and modern techniques with proven results.

Our centre is conveniently located just outside the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, a one-hour flight from the country’s capital of Bangkok. At our tranquil riverfront property, surrounded by picturesque rice fields and traditional Thai villages, you are completely removed from your triggers – the people, places and things that contribute to your condition – and immersed in a safe and soothing environment. 

Call us today to learn more about how we can help you reclaim your life from addiction.

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