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The word “addiction” is often used to refer to any behaviour that is out of control in some way. People often describe themselves as being addicted to, for example, a TV show or shopping.

Addiction is also used to explain the experience of withdrawal when a substance or behaviour (e.g., gambling) is stopped (e.g., “I must be addicted to coffee: I get a headache when I don’t have my cup in the morning”). However, experiencing enjoyment or going through withdrawal does not in itself mean a person has an addiction.

Because the term “addiction” is commonly used in such a vague way, there have been many attempts to define it more clearly. The definition used here refers to problematic use of a substance such as alcohol.

One simple way of describing addiction is the presence of the 4 Cs:

  • Craving
  • loss of Control of amount or frequency of use
  • Compulsion to use
  • use despite Consequences.


  • Connex Ontario
  • Information Guide from CAMH
  • CAMH on Addiction
  • Get help today