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Controlled illicit drug use has received relatively scant scholarly attention. This article seeks to examine the phenomenon of controlled drug use among inner Sydney gay men by accounting for the range of social regulatory mechanisms that contribute to managed use. The article explores the socio-historical contexts in which such use is embedded and investigates the social norms of control that have developed. We argue that the folk pharmacology of Sydney gay men consists of a range of folk harm reduction strategies usually delivered by lay experts or ‘network nannies’. These nannies serve several functions including teaching initiates about the practices of controlled use. The concluding discussion considers potential problems regarding the role of nannies and implications for peer education.