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"Chasing the dragon" (a slang phrase of Cantonese origin from Hong Kongmarker) refers to inhaling the smoke from heated morphine, heroin or opium that has been placed on a piece of foil. The 'chasing' occurs as the user gingerly keeps the liquid moving in order to keep it from coalescing into a single, unmanageable mass.

In American drug use slang, "chasing the dragon" refers to the elusive pursuit of the ultimate high in the usage of some particular drug. The term alludes to the feeling that the next ingested dosage of the drug will result in a nirvana that seems and feels imminent and conclusive, yet upon consumption never quite yields the promised experience—leading to the desire for the next dose that still promises the same—thus chasing the dragon but never catching it (like "chasing after the wind [a wild wind] " a biblical term). Most common recreational drugs germane to the term include inhaled cocaine, heroin, nitrous oxide, inhaled amphetamines, and sometimes shorter-acting psychedelic compounds such as, DMT, MDMA, and even marijuana when used in ritual form. [Ed. BGT]

"Chasing the dragon" can also refer to the practice of prostitution by some female heroin addicts to fuel their drug habits.

"Chasing the dragon" as an ingestion method has been accomplished with various vaporizing apparatus, including traditional opium pipes. A makeshift method involves putting the substance in an empty teapot, heating it over a stove, and inhaling through the nozzle via the nose or mouth. Heating on a small piece of aluminum foil and inhaling through a tube (usually a cut-up pen or section of aluminum foil rolled into a tube) is another common method.

Such ingestion may pose less immediate danger to the user than injecting heroin, due to eliminating the risk of transmission of HIV, hepatitis, and other diseases through needle sharing, as well as the stress that injection 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 gauging 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 and inhaling heroin itself may lead to toxic leukoencephalopathy.

In popular culture

In music

  • "Chasing the Dragon" is a Cantonese song of Wan Kwong.
  • I Love to Chase the Dragon is a Coalition of Blood song in which the original recording was when guitarist Jack McNease was in use of heroin.
  • Chasing the Dragon is a Led Zeppelin bootleg recording of a concert at Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texasmarker on March 4, 1975, released by Empress Valley label.
  • "Chasing the Dragon" is the title of various songs by rapper Ill Bill, American glam metal band L.A. Guns, Dutch symphonic metal band Epica, Australian rock supergroup Beasts of Bourbon, Wan Kwong, Dream Evil, Machine Gun Fellatio and 90's Christian band Code of Ethics.
  • 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.
  • The song "Chasing Dragons" from Norwegian metal band 1349's album Beyond the Apocalypse, is about the experience of this type of drug use.
  • French singer Serge Gainsbourg says « Je dirai en substance ceci : « touchez pas au dragon chasing, chasse au dragon qui se prend en shoot ou en shit » in the song Aux enfants de la chance
  • Progressive rock bassist John Wetton's 1994 live album is named Chasing the Dragon.
  • "Me and the dragon can chase all the pain away" is the line from Placebo's song "My Sweet Prince".
  • Progressive metal band Queensrÿche's song "Operation Mindcrime", from their album Operation Mindcrime features a reference with these lyrics: "Had a habit doing mainline/Watch the dragon burn".
  • "Chasing the Dragon" is a song from the Ill Bill album What's Wrong With Bill? featuring Necro.
  • The band August Burns Red has a song called "Chasing the Dragon" off their B-side compilation album, Lost Messengers: The Outtakes.
  • "Let's chase the dragon" is a lyric in Suede's 1993 song "So Young."
  • A Perfect Circle's song Weak and Powerless contains the lyric "Jam another dragon down the hole".
  • The chorus of the Steely Dan song "Time Out of Mind" contains the lyric "Tonight when I chase the dragon".
  • American metal band Bloodsimple's song "Out To Get You", from the album Red Harvest is based on drug use, and contains the lyrics "She's been chasing dragons for endless nights"
  • The song "Beetlebum" by Blur references the related phrase "Chasing the beetle" which refers to smoking heroin.
  • Maryland Doom Metal band Internal Void's 1991 Voyage demo opens with a song entitled "Chasin the Dragon", featuring the lyrics "I'm wasted everyday, and I'm burning my good mind away"
  • Chase the Dragon a song written by Keith Hancock appears on the 1986 album by Clive Gregson & Christine Collister titled "Home And Away".
  • In Dirt Nasty's Song "Wanna Get High (ft. Andre Legacy)," Andre raps the line "I woke up chasin' the dragon."
  • A hardcore metal band in Chicago,Illinois is named Chasin' The Dragon.
  • There's a line in Ozzy Osbourne's song Junkie, that says: "You're chasing the dragon, You're chasing the high"

In film and television

  • In the "Guitar Queer-o" episode of South Park, Stan plays a video game called "Heroin Hero," which the player literally chases a dragon that can never be caught. Another game, "Rehab Hero," is also mentioned, where the dragon chases you.
  • Title of multiple films - from different genres, but usually involving drug addiction.
  • A 1996 Lifetime Network Television movie was called Chasing the Dragon; it starred Markie Post as a middle-class mom who becomes addicted to heroin.
  • In the season 4 episode of Gilmore Girls, "A Family Matter", Paris tells Jamie that Lane is "Chasing the dragon", a lie so that she won't have to see him that night.
  • In the film "From Hell" (2001) Sir William Gull (Ian Holm) confronts Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp) concerning his use of opiates with the question "How long have you been chasing the dragon, Inspector?"

In literature

  • The autobiography "Chasing the Dragon" by missionary Jackie Pullinger recalls how she went to Hong Kong to help drug addicts quit "chasing the dragon" through Christian teaching and prayer.

In art


  1. Frank Dikotter, Lars Laamann & Zhou Xun, Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 162.
  2. "Chasing the Dragon" Radiology Findings:

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