Chasing the dragon

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"Chasing the dragon" (traditional Chinese: 追龍; simplified Chinese: 追龙; pinyin: zhuī lóng; Jyutping: zeoi1 lung4) is a slang phrase of Cantonese origin from Hong Kong referring to inhaling the vapor from heated morphine, heroin, oxycodone or opium. The "chasing" occurs as the user gingerly keeps the liquid moving in order to keep it from coalescing into a single, unmanageable mass.[1] Another more metaphorical use of the term "chasing the dragon" refers to the elusive pursuit of the ultimate high in the usage of some particular drug.


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. 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 always harmful to expose the lungs to any kind of smoke and inhaling heroin itself may lead to toxic leukoencephalopathy.[2]


The metaphorical meaning of 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[3]). Medically speaking, this sensation is a common aspect of drug addiction in which psychological and physical drug tolerance causes a diminishing return curve in the user's enjoyment of the drug. Here, the "dragon" represents the user's best euphoric experiences with the drug (usually due to novelty and inexperience), but with the positive effects diminishing (and often being replaced with negative effects) over time with each consecutive experience, causing the user to fruitlessly "chase" harder and use more of the drug to try to recapture the initial euphoria. Another metaphorical interpretation of chasing the dragon exemplifies chasing after a high getting closer and closer to death, the metaphorical catching of the dragon, which would be result in the dragon turning on the chaser and killing him or her. The dragon, having never been caught by a hero who lived, metaphors no one knowing how close to death they really are with dope because when you hit that limit you are, ...dead. Biblical chasing after the wind refers to the senselessness of earthly pursuits when one's death looms. Pursuits such as wealth, possessions, and even family and prestige.

In popular culture[edit]


  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 from Radiopaedia.
  3. ^ Biblical mentions of "chasing the wind",
  4. ^ Chasing the Dragon by Justina Robson reviewed by Niall Harrison, Strange Horizons, 19 February 2010,
  5. ^ John Tracey (2007). "Urge Overkill Feature: A Rock Star Runs Errands". The Spill Magazine Online (Toronto). Retrieved February 2009. 
  6. ^

External links[edit]