Heroin smoking by 'chasing the dragon': origins and history

Addiction. 1997 Jun;92(6):673-83; discussion 685-95. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1997.9266734.x.


The history of heroin smoking and the subsequent development and spread of 'chasing the dragon' are examined. The first heroin smoking originated in Shanghai in the 1920s and involved use of porcelain bowls and bamboo tubes, thereafter spreading across much of Eastern Asia and to the United States over the next decade. 'Chasing the dragon' was a later refinement of this form of heroin smoking, originating in or near Hong Kong in the 1950s, and refers to the ingestion of heroin by inhaling the vapours which result when the drug is heated-typically on tin-foil above a flame. Subsequent spread of 'chasing the dragon' included spread to other parts of South East Asia during the 1960s and 1970s, to some parts of Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and to much of the Indian sub-continent during the 1980s. At the time of writing, 'chasing the dragon' has now been reliably reported from many parts of the world but not from others with an established heroin problem-such as the United States and Australia. The significance of this new form of heroin use is examined, including consideration of the role of the different effect with this new form of use, the different types of heroin, and changing public attitudes to injecting.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Asia, Southeastern / epidemiology
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Heroin / administration & dosage
  • Heroin / history*
  • Heroin Dependence / epidemiology
  • Heroin Dependence / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans


  • Heroin