There are constantly new ways to measure different aspects of nicotine addiction. What we're really interested in, is how do we take something that's healthy, and try to help people substitute a health-compromising behavior with a healthy behavior, rather than replacing it with the same drug they are dependent on.
- Lee Cohen
My research program systematically explores behavioral, cognitive, and physiological mechanisms that contribute to nicotine use, withdrawal, and dependence. I am interested in identifying healthy alternative behaviors that may compliment current smoking cessation efforts, but am also interested in examining relevant individual differences that may help to maintain tobacco use, including personality traits, emotional regulation, and affective states, such as depression and anxiety. More recently, given the well-documented connection between drinking and smoking, I have become interested in examining ways in which to reduce problematic use of alcohol among college students, as well as the relationship between smoking and drinking.
Cigarette smoking ranks as one of the most preventable causes of disease, disability, and death throughout the world. The overall goal of my research is to find readily accessible, affordable, and healthy alternatives to cigarette smoking that may help those who continue to smoke, quit.
The patients/clients I have worked with in the past, as well as the students I have had the privilege of working with (past and present). In fact, several of my former doctoral students continue to collaborate with me on many of my ongoing projects.
The service projects I enjoy the most involve health interventions that target a large number of people. These projects can include training providers, students, or the patients themselves.
Along with my colleagues and students, we are working on two grants, one that has a training emphasis and the other a research emphasis. The training grant is funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), and the research grant is funded by the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health (LWBIWH).
As part of the CPRIT grant, we are training front-line healthcare providers (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses) and front-line mental health care providers (e.g., psychologists, psychologists-in-training) in a comprehensive, yet brief, smoking cessation intervention program. It is our goal to overcome previous barriers to intervention by the inclusion of psychologists, who can provide added patient services, as part of the treatment team. These services will offer help to the patient and to the health care providers, who do not have the time available for ongoing support services.
The overarching goal of the grant funded by the LWBIWH is to demonstrate the efficacy of confectionary chewing gum, and exercise as low-cost supplements to existing tobacco use and dependence treatments. Given that it appears that women face different barriers to quitting, including greater likelihood of experiencing depression and increased concerns of weight gain, women may benefit from tobacco dependence treatments that address these concerns. Two such activities, shown to help reduce negative mood states and manage weight, are chewing confectionary chewing gum and engaging in moderate exercise – both of which can easily be implemented as part of standard smoking cessation treatment packages.
When possible, combine the areas of teaching, research and service – do not think of them as independent components. For instance, many programs exist that fund program development. As part of these projects, you can train students, obtain federal/state money, and collect data that will lead to enhanced research productivity, so such projects are a win-win!
I grew up in Canyon Country, California (now called Santa Clarita).
B.A. (Honors Psychology, Magna Cum Laude), University of California, San Diego, 1994;
M.S. (Psychology), Oklahoma State University, 1996;
University of California, San Diego Psychology Internship Consortium, 1998-1999;
Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology), Oklahoma State University, 1999.