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Psychology professor’s article published in scholarly journal

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Posted on Friday, November 18, 2022

A Westminster College psychology professor’s article about the relationship between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and nicotine usage was recently published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, a peer-reviewed academic journal covering the field of psychiatry and attention disorders.

Written by Dr. Jessica Rhodes, assistant professor, “An Examination of the Role of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo as a Moderator of the Relationship Between ADHD and Nicotine Use” shares details about research Rhodes conducted in 2021.

Rhodes’ previous research demonstrated that people with ADHD are more likely to begin using nicotine at younger ages, experience more severe withdrawal symptoms while abstinent, be more dependent on nicotine and demonstrate more difficulty quitting.

Rhodes recruited 309 participants for her present study, which explored the impact of a psychologically important construct known as Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT), which is characterized by sluggishness, daydreaming, absent-mindedness and lethargy. Results demonstrated that individuals with ADHD were more likely to report a younger age of initiation and more severe withdrawal symptoms for both combustible and electronic cigarettes.

“Importantly, results demonstrated that SCT significantly impacted the ADHD-withdrawal relationships, suggesting that individuals with ADHD who also experience more SCT symptoms experienced more severe withdrawal symptoms,” said Rhodes. “This is important because withdrawal symptom severity predicts cessation success—that is, smokers who experience more severe withdrawal symptoms while abstinent are more likely to relapse and resume smoking.”

The findings from Rhodes’ present study suggest that SCT may be an important treatment target for individuals with ADHD who want to quit smoking. In other words, Rhodes said, reducing SCT symptoms via treatment such as psychotherapy may reduce withdrawal symptom severity among individuals with ADHD, thus improving smoking cessation rates.

Rhodes earned Westminster College’s 2021 McCandless Scholar Award, which provided the necessary funding for her research. The McCandless Award, endowed by the estate of J. Bardarah McCandless, professor of religion from 1961-1994, is given to full-time tenure-track faculty to support research and scholarship expenses.

Rhodes, who joined the Westminster College faculty in 2016, earned her undergraduate degree from D’Youville College and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo. She completed her pre-doctoral clinical residency and postdoctoral training with Western Psychiatric Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry.

To read Rhodes' article, click here.