This article examines the multiple and contradictory understandings that participants of a free party (rave) scene in the South West of England drew upon when talking about ketamine, and the role of these understandings in identity and consumption practices. The data is drawn from 19 semi-structured interviews and one focus group conducted in two phases over a period of 17 months with participants associated with a particular sound system. The data was analysed using discourse analysis, identifying three interpretative repertoires namely 'communality and sociality'; 'ketamine as alien invader'; and 'rights and pleasures of extreme intoxication'. Different understandings of ketamine were used to articulate a contradictory set of values about the free party scene, and drawn upon to negotiate the heterogeneity of this scene. This also entailed the negotiation of wider neo-liberal discourses around individual rights and freedoms to consume, and individual regulation and responsibility for these freedoms.