BACKGROUND: While the pleasures of drug use are sometimes acknowledged, they are normally limited to those who are socially privileged. The drug use of those who are impoverished and marginalised is linked instead to crime, social misery and addiction. Studying poverty in connection with drug use enriches our understanding of both poverty and drugs, but there are limitations to these connections, including their neglect of pleasure. METHOD: This paper draws on 85 qualitative interviews with service providers and clients, conducted for a project entitled 'Comparing the role of takeaways in methadone maintenance treatment in New South Wales and Victoria'. Critical readings of psychoanalysis are used as a conceptual frame. RESULTS: Although pleasurable and problematic drug use are often thought to be mutually exclusive, pleasure is reported from both the effects of drugs such as heroin and methadone, and from the social worlds of methadone maintenance treatment. Attention to drug users' narratives of pleasure has the potential for new understandings of drug use and social disadvantage. CONCLUSION: Common distinctions between kinds of drug use, such as problematic and recreational, are less useful than is normally thought.