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Adam Leventhal

Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Psychology

Contact Information
Phone: (323) 442-2732

Curriculum Vitae
Personal Website
USC-HEAL Profile

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Leventhal is a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine - Division of Health Behavior Research within the USC Keck School of Medicine. He holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychology in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He also is a faculty member of the USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine.


Dr. Leventhal is the principal investigator of grants funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Cancer Society that total approximately $7.8M. These grants support studies aligned with his primary research interests in: (1) the affective underpinnings of addiction; (2) Psycholopharmacology of drug dependence: (3) comorbidity between mood and substance use disorders; (4) smoking cessation; and (5) the affective correlates of physical activity, diet, and other health behaviors. Dr. Leventhal has been recognized for his contributions to the field as the recipient of the APA Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuses’ Young Psychopharmacologist Award for excellence in research at the interface between the disciplines of pharmacology and psychology, the APA Society for Clinical Psychology’s David Shakow Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology, the American Academy of Health Behavior’s Judy K. Black Early Career Research Award for innovative and rigorous research that makes an important contribution of health behavior science or practice, and the Jarvik-Russell Early Career Award for extraordinary contributions to the field of nicotine and tobacco research by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.


In addition to directing USC-HEAL, Dr. Leventhal serves as a research mentor for undergraduate Health Promotion students, graduate students in the Health Behavior Research doctoral program, and postdoctoral fellows in the Department of Preventive Medicine. See Training Opportunities. He has been recognized for his mentoring as the recipient of the USC Mellon Mentoring Award for Outstanding Mentoring of Undergraduate Students. Furthermore, he is on the editorial boards of several peer-reviewed journals, including serving as an associate editor for Nicotine & Tobacco Research, academic editor for PLOS ONE, and associate editor for Behavioral Medicine.Finally, he regularly serves as a reviewer on a U.S. National Institutes of Health study section on risk, prevention, and intervention on addictions.


Dr. Leventhal received his B.A. in Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara; M.A. in Psychology at the University of Houston; and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Houston. He completed a NCI predoctoral fellowship in tobacco addiction research at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; a clinical psychology internship at Brown Medical School; and a NIDA postdoctoral fellowship in addiction research at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. His personal interests include running, playing guitar, watching football, spending time with friends and family.



Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, University of Houston, 8/2007
M.A. Psychology, University of Houston, 5/2005
B.A. Psychology, University of California Santa Barbara, 6/2002

Postdoctoral Training

NIDA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Addiciton Research, Brown University, 2007-2009  
Psychology Internship, Brown Medical School, 2006-2007  
NCI Predoctoral Fellowship in Tobacco Use Research, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 2004-2006  

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Tenure Track Appointments

Associate Professor, University of Southern California, 04/2014-  
Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, 07/2009-03/2014  

Non-Tenure Track Appointments

Lecturer, Brandeis University, 2008-2009   
Adjunct Instructor, Newbury College, 2007-2008   

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

A broad emphasis of my work is to uncover why some people are prone to addiction while others are not. To comprehensively address this question, it is important to examine the factors that confer risk at each stage of the addiction process, including drug use experimentation, escalation, maintenance, cessation, and relapse. To this end, my laboratory focuses on identifying novel psychosocial and biobehavioral factors that influence drug use at each stage of the addiction trajectory, with a particular emphasis on the role of emotional sources of addiction risk. Most of the work is focused on tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. However, determinants of other addictions as well as other health-related behaviors (e.g., eating, risk-taking, exercise) are also of interest. Research conducted is transdisciplinary in nature and integrates theories and methods of behavioral science, psychopharmacology, and epidemiology.

Research Keywords

Addiction, Mood Disorders, Smoking Cessation

Research Specialties

Etiology of addiction. Interrelation between personality, emotional disturbance, and addiction. Psychopharmacology of drug intoxication and withdrawal. Smoking cessation. Etiology and subtyping of psychiatric disoders, particularly major depression. Role of emotion and personality in health behaviors (i.e., physical activity, diet) and psychiatric conditions. Addiction-related Health Disparities. Information processing approaches to understanding psychopathology. Addiction genetics

Funded Research

Contracts and Grants Awarded

Genetics of Tobacco Withdrawal in African Americans (American Cancer Society), Adam Leventhal, $1,785,000, 07/2013-06/2018  
Anhedonia as Risk Factor and Consequence of Substance Use, R01-DA033296 (NIDA), Adam Leventhal, $3,466,510, 09/15/2012-06/30/2017  
Neuroendocrine Factors, Nicotine, and Behavioral Inhibition in Female Smokers (NIDA), Adam Leventhal, $451,625, 08/2013-06/2015  
Affective and Genetic Correlates of Amphetamine Response, K08-DA025041 (NIDA), Adam Leventhal, $789,918, 08/01/2009-07/31/2014  
Mechanisms Linking Anhedonia and Tobacco Addiction, R01-DA026831 (NIDA), Adam Leventhal, $1,217,709, 08/15/2009-11/30/2013  

USC Funding

URAP. Undergraduate Fellowship in Addiction Science: This project supports the involvement of undergraduate students in behavioral research studies of drug addiction to facilitate research skills for a successful transition to graduate school., $23,000, 05/01/2011-04/30/2015  


Journal Article

Leventhal, A. M., David, S. P., Brightman, M., Strong, D., McGeary, J. E., Brown, R. A., Lloyd-Richardson, E. E., Munafo, M., Uhl, G. R., Niaura, R. (2010). Dopamine D4 receptor gene variation moderates the efficacy of bupropion for smoking cessation. Pharmacogenomics J. (2010/07/28)
Leventhal, A. M., Kahler, C. W. (2010). Examining socioaffective processing biases in cigarette smokers with high versus low trait hostility. Behav Med. Vol. 36 (22010/05/26), pp. 63-9.
Leventhal, A. M., Mickens, L., Dunton, G. F., Sussman, S., Riggs, N. R., Pentz, M. A. (2010). Tobacco use moderates the association between major depression and obesity. Health Psychol. Vol. 29 (52010/09/15), pp. 521-8.
Leventhal, A. M., Pettit, J. W., Lewinsohn, P. M. (2010). Familial influence of substance use disorder on emotional disorder across three generations. Psychiatry Res. (2010/09/10)
Leventhal, A. M., Waters, A. J., Moolchan, E. T., Heishman, S. J., Pickworth, W. B. (2010). A quantitative analysis of subjective, cognitive, and physiological manifestations of the acute tobacco abstinence syndrome. Addict Behav. Vol. 35 (122010/09/03), pp. 1120-30.
Leventhal, A. M., Kahler, C. W., Ray, L. A., Zimmerman, M. (2009). Refining the depression-nicotine dependence link: patterns of depressive symptoms in psychiatric outpatients with current, past, and no history of nicotine dependence. Addict Behav. Vol. 34 (32008/12/09), pp. 297-303.
Leventhal, A. M., Francione Witt, C., Zimmerman, M. (2008). Associations between depression subtypes and substance use disorders. Psychiatry Res. Vol. 161 (12008/09/16), pp. 43-50.
Leventhal, A. M., Ramsey, S. E., Brown, R. A., LaChance, H. R., Kahler, C. W. (2008). Dimensions of depressive symptoms and smoking cessation. Nicotine Tob Res. Vol. 10 (32008/03/08), pp. 507-17.
Leventhal, A. M., Waters, A. J., Breitmeyer, B. G., Miller, E. K., Tapia, E., Li, Y. (2008). Subliminal processing of smoking-related and affective stimuli in tobacco addiction. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. Vol. 16 (42008/08/30), pp. 301-12.
Leventhal, A. M., Waters, A. J., Boyd, S., Moolchan, E. T., Heishman, S. J., Lerman, C., Pickworth, W. B. (2007). Associations between Cloninger's temperament dimensions and acute tobacco withdrawal. Addict Behav. Vol. 32 (122007/07/13), pp. 2976-89.
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