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Senior psychology major earns Drinko grant to research ADHD and nicotine consumption

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Posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2023

A Westminster College psychology major earned a grant from the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research to conduct research on ADHD symptoms and their relation to nicotine consumption.

Sadie Cunningham, a senior from Webster N.Y., based her research off the factors that demonstrate how individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to engage in nicotine-related activities at an earlier age than those without ADHD. 

To further her research, Cunningham examined emotional intelligence as an influencer in nicotine use addiction and the severity of withdrawal symptoms in combination with ADHD. 

Her results concluded that there is a suggestion that reduced emotional intelligence increases withdrawal symptoms, although further studies are to be done to fully show the dominating mediator in the ADHD and nicotine consumption relationship. 

By finding the mediator, such as emotional intelligence, those with ADHD symptoms might find that quitting habits like smoking are a little easier. 

“The Drinko grant was a huge help in my research process,” said Cunningham. “I was able to get incentives for the 100 participants I needed for my sample survey.”

Cunningham said her mentor, Dr. Jessica Rhodes, assistant professor of psychology, helped her through the Drinko grant request process and kept her on track with her research.

After graduation, Cunningham plans to pursue a Ph.D. in occupational therapy or enter a graduate studies program in psychology. 

For more information on Westminster’s psychology program, click here. 

For more information on the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, contact director Dr. Karen Resendes at