My watch list  

Chasing the dragon

"Chasing the dragon" (a slang phrase of Cantonese origin from Hong Kong) refers to inhaling the smoke from heated morphine or heroin. (Opium is referred to as a dragon in Asian cultures.) The term evokes the similarity between the rippling smoke and a dragon's tail. Opium use was common throughout the Western world in colonial times, when Chinese were kept as slaves. The global presence of slavery caused a demand for opium that was filled by Western traders complicit with slave owners, as it kept the slaves mellow and eased the pain (and complaint) from hard labor[citation needed]. Opium dens consequently became common in Western trading ports during the period. In modern times, with the advent of heroin, the method traveled from China to Europe again, where, during the early 1990s, the technique spread to the Netherlands, and from there throughout the world. The most common form of smoked heroin is heroin base, which is also known as "number 3 heroin", so called because it forgoes the final steps to make the heroin into the salt diamorphine hydrochloride (see Heroin).

"Chasing the dragon" may pose less immediate danger to the user than injecting heroin due to eliminating the risk of disease transmission through needle sharing, as well as the stress that injecting puts on veins. The technique also avoids the delivery of heroin into the bloodstream instantaneously, as is the case with injection, a fact which may reduce one's chances of accidentally overdosing. A small puff can be inhaled as a method of gaging the strength of the heroin. Also, the lungs can act to filter out additional pollutants that otherwise would pass directly into the bloodstream; however, in any case it is never harmless to expose the lungs to any kind of smoke. Inhaling heroin may lead to toxic leukoencephalopathy.

"Chasing the dragon" may be accomplished with a vaporizing pipe; traditional opium pipes are vaporizing pipes. A makeshift method involves putting the substance in an empty teapot, heating it over a stove, and inhaling through the nozzle using the nose or mouth.

In Popular Culture

  • Chasing the Dragon is a Cantonese song by Wan Kwong in 1970s.
  • Chasing the Dragon is mentioned in Thrash metal band Lamb of God's song "Beating on Death's Door", in the lyrics "...chasing a dragon in a lady's clothes, a paper trail ends in choking smoke"
  • Chasing the Dragon is Led Zeppelin bootleg recording of a concert at Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas on March 4, 1975, released by Empress Valley label.
  • Death metal band Napalm Death uses the term in the anti-heroin song "Mindsnare": "Chasing the dragon who's frying your brain, the shit that one gave you the high." [1]
  • In the "Guitar Queer-o" episode of South Park, Stan plays a video game called "Heroin Hero," which involves injecting yourself with heroin while literally chasing a dragon that you can never catch. Another game, "Rehab Hero," is also mentioned, where the dragon chases you.
  • In the episode A Family Matter in the Gilmore Girls series, Paris Gellar tells her boyfriend that Rory's friend Lane is chasing the dragon as an excuse so she doesn't have to see him.
  • In the film Killing Zoe, Eric Stoltz's character performs this and promptly hallucinates.
  • "Chasing the Dragon" is a song by rapper Ill Bill.
  • "Chasing the Dragon" is also a song by American glam metal band L.A. Guns
  • "Chasing the Dragon" is also a song by Dutch symphonic metal band Epica
  • The term is also mentioned in the Placebo song "My Sweet Prince", which is partly about heroin, in the line "me and the dragon, can chase all the pain away."
  • It is mentioned in the song "So Young" by Suede.
  • It is featured as "this dragon we chase" into the song named "IF I Could Fly" by Boy George, on his 1995 album Cheapness And Beauty, and his 2002 set U Can Never B 2 Straight.
  • It is mentioned in several Steely Dan songs, notably "Time Out of Mind" ("tonight when I chase the dragon, water will change to cherry wine, silver will turn to gold").
  • The song "Skull", featured in the 1994 album Bakesale by indie lo-fi band Sebadoh, features lyrics which refer to chasing the dragon.
  • The title of Urge Overkill's album "Exit The Dragon" references the act of exhaling heroin smoke (as well as the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon). The front cover is a picture of (presumably) exhaled smoke. The song "The Mistake", a warning to "beware the overdose", contains the lyrics "Never gonna make it today/Until you finally exit the dragon". Ex-drummer Blackie Onassis is a known heroin addict, and was fired from the band for his addiction.[citation needed]
  • The term is mentioned in the Ozzy Osbourne song "Junkie" from his 2001 album Down to Earth: "You're chasing the dragon, you're chasing the high / A bird with one wing who's still trying to fly". The song is about drug addiction.
  • The song "Lucy" by Dustin's Bar Mitzvah makes reference to the act in the lyric "You can chase all you want, but you'll never catch the dragon".
  • Melora Creager mentions that her mother chased the dragon in her opening monologue for "Momma was an Opium Smoker" before her band, Rasputina, plays the song on A Radical Recital.
  • The Queensrÿche song "Operation: Mindcrime" (from the 1988 album of the same name) includes the lyric "Had a habit doin' mainline, watch the dragon burn."
  • The song "Givin' Up" by The Darkness includes the line, "Cutting up my face, there's a dragon I must chase"
  • Inspector Frederick Abberline of the famed Jack the Ripper serial murder investigation is fictionally portrayed as an opium and absinthe addict in the 2001 film adaptation of the graphic novel From Hell . His peers in the story refer to his opium habit as "chasing the dragon."
  • The song "Chasing Dragons", of Norwegian metal band 1349's album Beyond the Apocalypse, is about the experience of this type of drug use.
  • Sopranos character Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) can be seen chasing the dragon in some episodes, most notably in the episode Kaisha.
  • The Autobiography "Chasing the Dragon" by missionary Jackie Pullinger recalls how she went to Hong Kong to help drug addicts quit 'chasing the dragon'. She did this through Christian teaching and prayer.
  • In the movie Gia, starring Angelina Jolie, the phrase 'chasing the dragon' is used on the set of a photo shoot in which Gia is high on heroin.
  • In the comic by Hergé, The Blue Lotus Tintin meets "The Sons of the Dragon" dedicated to the fight against opium and is seen to enter an opium den.
  • In the film Once Upon a Time in America, the phrase 'chasing the dragon' is mentioned several times and Robert DeNiro's character is seen doing so in an opium den behind a shadow puppet theatre.
  • Australian rock supergroup Beasts of Bourbon's 1991 album "The Low Road" begins with the track "Chase The Dragon". Tex Perkins sings "I brought back/a souvenir/all the way/from Kampuchea/a plastic bag shoved up my ass"
  • English space rock band Spiritualized have alluded to heroin throughout their work, including the track entitled Electric Mainline from the heavily drug-referenced album Pure Phase.
  • In A Perfect Circle's song "Weak and Powerless" a slight variation of "chasing the dragon" is mentioned in the lyrics. The relevant lyrics are "jam another dragon down the hole" which alludes to heroin injection rather than inhalation.
  • The song "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers" by the RX Bandits is wholly about lead singer Matt Embree's own addiction. It describes how it "moves so slowly" and how the singer's "aches and shakes" won't seem to let up.


  • ANNEX 1 From 0 to 600 centigrade in 2 seconds Chasing the dragon
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Chasing_the_dragon". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE