Copyright © 2021 Natural Medicines (
March 2013

Mental Health May Affect Perceived Substance Risk

Substance abuse, mental health, and public health campaigns may determine perceived risk of the use of drugs such as marijuana, according to a study.

Australian researchers set out to examine the relationship between perceived harm and substance abuse patterns in people with and without mental disorders. They recruited 1,046 people between the ages of 18 and 86 and asked them to fill out a questionnaire. Participants answered questions on history of mental illness, substance use, perceived harm, psychological status, and response to public health campaigns detailing the potential dangers of drug use.

The scientists found that individuals who perceived a lower risk of tobacco and marijuana were more likely to abuse these drugs. Conversely, participants who perceived a higher risk of tobacco and marijuana were more likely to be female and respond more positively to public health campaigns. A greater risk perception for tobacco was also linked to older age and a lack of mental disorders. However, for marijuana, having a mental disorder was linked to a higher risk perception of using marijuana.

The researchers concluded that many factors may be associated with perceptions of the harmfulness of drugs such as marijuana. They stated that some public health campaigns for certain substances may be more effective than others, and there is a need to highlight the negative consequences of some substances.

Marijuana, hemp, and cannabis are common names for plants of the genus Cannabis. The term hemp is often used for cannabis strains grown specifically for production of paper, rope, and cloth. Other cannabis strains are used to make recreational and medicinal drugs. Marijuana has been used medicinally for approximately 5,000 years. The most widely used components of the herb in traditional medicine are the seed and seed oil. Cannabis sativa is widely used recreationally (inhaled or taken by mouth) to achieve increased feelings of well-being.

Marijuana has been studied for the treatment of a number of conditions, including eczema, epilepsy, chronic pain, insomnia and symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The most significant benefits have been found in the treatment of chronic pain and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

For more information about marijuana, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Thornton LK, Baker AL, Johnson MP, et al. Perceived risk associated with tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use among people with and without psychotic disorders. Addict Behav. 2013 Feb 18;38(6):2246-2251. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.02.003. 

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2021 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.