This paper explores normalised drug use as an aspect of young people's leisure careers. Qualitative data generated by 24 single-sex focus groups with 153 (85 males; 68 females) 15–16-year-olds attending seven schools in north-west England and north-east Wales revealed that young people's drug use tended to be both heterogeneous and situation specific. Indeed, rather than being actively sought out, 15–16-year-olds’ drug use was often characterised by propinquity – either in terms of place (e.g. parties), relationships (in particular, friends and peers), similarities of outlook and style (e.g. engagement in drug-oriented leisure) and time (in the sense of age cohorts) – and by sociability – especially as a means of enhancing friendships – as well as a search for pleasurable excitement in the company of others. Thus, the paper concludes that the illicit use of drugs by 15–16-year-olds can only be meaningfully understood when viewed in light of these leisure preferences that are among the social processes through which drug use can become normalised in some young people's leisure.