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To develop effective interventions for people with coexisting mental disorders (MD) and substance use, it may be beneficial to understand their attitudes and perceptions of substances.A systematic literature search regarding attitudes and perceptions towards tobacco, alcohol or cannabis among people with MD was conducted. Studies’ methodological quality was assessed using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale.Twenty-one papers were included in the review and found to have generally low methodological quality. Papers investigated reasons for substance use, substance use expectancies, substances’ perceived effects and reasons for quitting. People with psychotic disorders reported using substances primarily for relaxation and pleasure. Among people with mood disorders, alcohol was used primarily for social motives and tobacco for negative affect reduction.For substance use interventions among people with MD to be more effective, it may be necessary to tailor interventions specifically for this population and customize by substance type. Gaps in the literature regarding attitudes and perceptions towards substance use among people with MD were identified, which future research should aim to address. These include designing and conducting methodologically rigorous research, investigating perceived harmfulness and knowledge of substances, and broadening recruitment of participants to include people with MD other than psychosis.