Pharmacokinetic comparison of two methods of heroin smoking: 'Chasing the dragon' versus the use of a heating device

Marjolein G. Klous, Alwin D.R. Huitema, Elisabeth J. Rook, Michel J.X. Hillebrand, Vincent M. Hendriks, Wim Van Den Brink, Jos H. Beijnen, Jan M. Van Ree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In preparation for a trial on co-prescription of inhalable heroin and methadone, two methods for inhalation of heroin/caffeine tablets were compared: the commonly used method of 'chasing the dragon' and a standardised procedure for inhalation of volatilised heroin, using a heating device. Five male addicts inhaled a tablet of smokable heroin daily for 5 days, alternating the inhalation method. Plasma concentrations of heroin, 6-acetylmorphine, morphine and morphine-3- and -6-glucuronide were determined using a liquid chromatography method with tandem mass spectrometric detection. The exposure to heroin and its metabolites (expressed as areas under the concentration-time curve) was significantly lower after smoking via the heating device than after 'chasing the dragon': heroin 80% and 6-acetylmorphine 73% lower (p<0.05). Maximal concentrations of heroin and 6-acetylmorphine were also 80% and 70% lower (p<0.05) after using the heating device. 'Chasing the dragon' is a more efficient inhalation method than inhalation via the heating device.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Chasing the dragon
  • Heroin
  • Inhalation
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Smoking


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