Chasing the dragon in popular culture

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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 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.[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. Both usages have been frequently featured in popular culture.

In art[edit]

In film and television[edit]

  • Title of multiple films - from different genres, but usually involving drug addiction.
  • Season 5 Episode 10 of Beverly Hills 90210, the reference is made to the character Dylan McKay "Chasing the Dragon". Later in that episode Dylan is seen "Chasing the Dragon" while in his car
  • In the film Killing Zoe (1994), the protagonist, Zed (Eric Stoltz), is shown how to chase the dragon "the Chinese have been doing it for centuries" he is encouraged.
  • 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 HBO film Gia (1998), Gia Carangi (Angelina Jolie) confides on a model shoot that she's "sick" and an assistant, seeing a plastic tube she has tucked into her dress top, concludes she's "...chasing the dragon - good! You look great!" Adding more subtext, the shoot is set in an alley with red Chinese lanterns and Jolie is wearing masklike makeup reminiscent of Chinese opera.
  • 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 chased the dragon, Inspector?"
  • In the film Traffic (2000), Caroline Wakefield (Erika Christensen) chases the dragon with Seth Abrahms (Topher Grace).
  • In the 2003 Canadian film The Barbarian Invasions, one of the characters mentions "chasing the dragon" when she provides the main character, an aged cancer patient named Rémy, with his first experience with heroin.
  • In the "Guitar Queer-o" episode of South Park, Stan plays a video game called "Heroin Hero," in which the player literally chases a dragon that can never be caught, while injecting heroin. Another game, "Rehab Hero," is also mentioned, where the dragon chases you.
  • MTV's True Life: I'm Hooked on OxyContin" (10-16-2003)
  • The Daily Show's coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games consisted of a segment featuring correspondent Rob Riggle entitled: "Rob Riggle: Chasing the Dragon."
  • In a storyline on BBC Children's TV series 'Grange Hill' Zammo McGuire became a heroin addict. Graffiti was found in the school with the words 'Zammo chased the dragon and got a smack on the nose'.
  • In Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why, Justin Foley is shown inhaling heroin smoke off a piece of aluminum foil in the back of an alley. Foley is a heroin addict.

In literature[edit]

  • Many characters in Mian Mian's novel, Candy, "chase the dragon" while using heroin.
  • The autobiography Chasing the Dragon (1984), by Cathy Smith
  • 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 music[edit]

  • The Kansas song "Silhouettes in Disguise" from their album Power features the lyrics "They're riding on a rail trying to chase the dragon".
  • The band Ambulance LTD features a song on their eponymous debut entitled "Ophelia" featuring the lyrics, "I'm chasing dragons down the streets / My eyes are feeble and filled with poison."
  • "Momma Was an Opium Smoker" by Rasputina is a song dealing with Opium. In the A Radical Recital intro, Melora Creager says her mother says to not write a song about "My Flatulence, my opulence, or how I chase the dragon".
  • "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, Texas on March 4, 1975, released by Empress Valley label.
  • "Fire on the Mountain" is a Grateful Dead song from the album Shakedown Street with the lyric, "There's a dragon with matches loose on the town." It was released on November 15, 1978 by Arista.
  • "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, Swedish power metal band Dream Evil, Australian rock supergroup Beasts of Bourbon, Wan Kwong, 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.[2]
  • 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".
  • 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"
  • There's a line in two of Lamb of God's songs "Beating On Deaths Door", that says:"Chasing a dragon in a lady's clothes" the other is in "Ghost Walking", "You chased the dragon but it followed you home."
  • Pennsylvania hardcore band, Wisdom in Chains, has a song called "Chasing the Dragon" on their record Everything You Know.
  • In the opening verse of The Cherry Poppin' Daddies single "Brown Derby Jump" is a line that says, "A three year trip on the dragon, 'til the clinic had to get me clean."
  • The song "Womb of the Worm" by British folk metal pioneers Skyclad contains the lyrics "Chasing dragons in the subway to kill time and ease the pain". The song itself is about young people ruining their lives with drugs and the "worms" supplying them.
  • Weedeater's 2011 release Jason... The Dragon is a reference to chasing the dragon.
  • The Steely Dan song, "Time Out Of Mind", from the 1980 album, Gaucho, is about the entire experience of obtaining the heroin, ("children we have it right here..."), anticipating its use ("Tonight, when I chase the dragon..."), explaining that it is vastly different from the use of cocaine ("people are rolling in the snow, Far from the world we know..."), and the experience of smoking it (It's the light in my eyes, It's perfection and grace, It's the smile on my face...).
  • The Darkness' song "Givin' Up", from the album Permission To Land features the lyrics "Getting off my face, there's a dragon I must chase."
  • In Eminem's song "Just Fly Away", he refers to his fall from the rap/music scene & his career due to drug abuse and addiction for a while saying "I was chasing a dragon, I dont know what happened, It was like the feelin’ I had when I first started rapping. I just, couldn't seem to get back and recapture that magic, so I went back to the lab, and that's where I've been at when some people ask me where I've been lately, they thought I fell off, nobody could save me..." [3]
  • "Let's go chasing dragons through the snow" is a lyric in the 1994 song "Skull" by Sebadoh.
  • The song "No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross" from the album Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens includes the line: “… I’m chasing the dragon too far."
  • "Chasing dragons, trynna make it happen, on a mission. Step into the shadows we talk addiction." is a line in the 2015 rap single "Grief" by American rapper Earl Sweatshirt


  1. ^ Frank Dikotter, Lars Laamann & Zhou Xun, Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 162.
  2. ^ John Tracey (2007). "Urge Overkill Feature: A Rock Star Runs Errands". The Spill Magazine Online. Toronto. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-07. Retrieved 2011-10-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)