The everyday lives of contemporary youths are awash with drugs to boost pleasure, moods, sexual performance, vitality, appearance and health. This article examines pervasive practices of chemical ‘self-maximization’ from the perspectives of youth themselves. The research for this article was conducted among male, female and transgender (male to female, so-called waria) sex workers in Makassar, Indonesia. It presents our ethnographic findings on how these youths experiment with drugs to achieve their desired mental and bodily states: with the painkiller Somadril to feel happy, confident and less reluctant to engage in sex with clients, and contraceptive pills and injectable hormones to feminize their male bodies and to attract customers. Youths are extremely creative in adjusting dosages and mixing substances, with knowledge of the (mostly positive) ‘lived effects’ of drugs spreading through collective experimentation and word of mouth. The paper outlines how these experimental practices differ from those that have become the gold standard in biomedicine.