I never smoke to excess – that is, I smoke in moderation, only one cigar at a time.

—Mark Twain

I meet a lot of different kinds of people in my non-motojournalism day job, which is driving for on-demand ride services. I met a dude who makes a good living brokering rare concert t-shirts. I met a guy who played the cavaquinho (which everybody knows is a sort of Brazilian ukulele) for me. I also met a woman from the Sakhalin Islands, which (according to this nice young lady) the Japanese are never getting back, even though they think they might someday.

I also met an anesthesiologist, and we had a nice chat about one of my favorite subjects, recreational pharmacology. “So what’s the best recreational painkiller, in your opinion?” She thought about it for a moment just a moment and told me about Fentanyl lollipops, which are a thing.

Fentanyl, as you may or may not know, is a synthetic opioid that’s a mere 100 times more potent than heroin, just in case you were under the illusion that Man could not improve on nature. It makes Oxycodone look like Tylenol PM and can be deadly if your system isn’t already in full William S. Burroughs mode. Calling it “powerful” is like calling the music of Insane Clown Posse “angry.” Who needs such powerful medication? Aside from MO staffers returning from overseas press launches, Fentanyl is prescribed for what’s called “breakthrough” pain: pain so severe or persistent that it breaks through the painkillers the patient is already using. It’s the pharmaceutical equivalent of supercharging a Hayabusa.

Fentanyl lozenge

Cephalon is also developing a Fentanyl Tootsie Pop with a soft, chewy Darvon center.

Used the right way, Fentanyl is a Godsend for those suffering from chronic pain, especially in end-of-life situations. It’s technology used for the best of human emotions: compassion. And then there are the lollipops.

Developed by Cephalon pharmaceuticals, the Fentanyl lozenge – it’s marketed under the brand name Actiq – is useful because the Fentanyl molecule is small enough to be absorbed efficiently and quickly through your mucous membranes, and the lollipop – sorry, “lozenge” – is a convenient way to self-administer for chronic sufferers. But could they have possibly come up with a drug more prone to abuse? I mean a lollipop? Really? As if that doesn’t scream “recreational!”

“Oh, no,” the researchers at Cephalon might say in their defense, “we only offer it in raspberry, so it’s not as tempting, because nobody likes raspberry.” No sir, can’t get hooked on that, especially since it comes in boxes of 30, which is the equivalent of only 3,000 doses of heroin. In all seriousness, Fentanyl abuse has taken a huge number of lives – thousands each year – including music legend Prince. But Cephalon and other companies are still churning out boxes of lollys and patches and pills because there are plenty of people that really do need the stuff, which I suppose makes up for the children, siblings, friends and parents we’ve lost? Who knows? I’m no medical ethicist. I’m not even particularly ethical, which is why I don’t feel bad cashing checks for writing this column.

Ironically, the same need for Fentanyl-laced party favors is also why we have superbikes, right? Because somebody, somewhere needs 180 horsepower, and since we’re trained, experienced, insured and licensed, we can handle it, right? Yes, you say, nodding your head. I can handle it. And I don’t have to have raspberry if I don’t like raspberry. Today we have a dizzying array of mega-powered, mega-awesome motorcycles, from the BMW S1000RR and KTM 1290 Super Duke, with their civilized and manageable engine mapping and rider aids, to the more raw and brutal bikes like Kawasaki’s supercharged H2R.

BMW S1000RR

Duke knows if he goes too fast, he can always get a Fentanyl prescription. It’s win-win!

It used to be that manufacturers didn’t want to give us full-on World Superbike performance. Remember when a Yamaha YZF-R1 only made 130-ish hp? Ha, ha! How quaint! Or BMW’s high-tech, top-of-the-line K1 that made under 100 horsies? And that was fine! You can’t sell a 600 these days making under 100 ponies, unless it’s marketed to beginners.

I’m not being nostalgic or disapproving in any way of the mega-powered bikes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this trend at all. In fact, I’m not sure why I’m comparing them to Fentanyl. Rather than causing a spike in motorcycle deaths in the way synthetic opioids accelerated the tragedy of drug abuse and addiction in our country, you could likely shuffle some stats around and argue that since the rate of motorcycle fatalities have remained more-or-less the same for the last decade, access to cheap and plentiful horsepower has had no effect. When it comes to motorcycle safety, any theory is as good as another, because, let’s face it, nobody really knows how to reduce motorcycle fatalities or even what affects the rate. Maybe we should have reverse-tier licensing, where beginners start on GSX-R1000s and work their way down to smaller bikes as their skills improve. They’d certainly learn throttle control.

Like the recreational drug-using community, motorcyclists have their share of rhymes-with-‘duck-nards’, but I think they’re a minority. Sure, motorcyclists die from having too much power, but most crashes are the cause of too much blood alcohol, too little skill, or just plain bad judgment that would have filled a casket regardless of how much power was going to the back wheel. And while candy laced with the most powerful narcotic imaginable doesn’t have to be abused, it’s difficult – I would say impossible – to avoid breaking the law on an R1 in the land of 70-mph speed limits. Over-powered motorcycles are now almost the norm, yet the fatality rate is pretty much where it was a decade ago.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Tom Roderick abusing his drug of choice.

It blows my mind that a consumer product as irresponsible as a 200-mph motorcycle continues to hit the showrooms year after year, while innocent lil’ Cephalon was almost sued to pieces for cranking out its medical-grade treats. Then again, the company makes way more Chet Baker pops than all the terminal cancer patients could possible use, because it knows many of them will wind up in the hands of people who don’t need them, and may even die in a wave of berry-flavored bliss

So kudos to you, open-class riders, for responsibly (mostly) using your superbikes. You can have too much cake and eat it too, even if it has raspberry frosting.


Gabe Ets-Hokin is a rodent native to the Willamette Valley of northwestern Oregon in the United States. The herbivorous mammal collects its food in large, fur-lined, external cheek pouches, then hoards any surplus in underground tunnels.

  • JMDGT

    Legalize drugs. If the herd is culled so be it. Our resources would be better spent elsewhere. Why does a motorcyclist buy a bike capable of going 200 mph? Because he can. I can’t think of a better reason. Here’s to liberty. For all those that can appreciate it.

    • spiff

      Cant remember which country it was, but they legalized all drugs. The difference was they continued to spend the same amount of money on rehab instead of enforcement. The results have been positive. One example of what they do is this. Take someone who is no longer using. They help them get a job, and pay half the individuals pay for one year. After that the employer can decide if they want to keep them on. I like this type of thought.

      Oh, and Tom is correct. The SDR is the shit!

      • Jason

        The country is Portugal. Drugs are still illegal but the criminal penalty is gone. A chronic user may get sentenced to rehab but no one is going to jail just for using drugs. The policy went into effect in 2001. Since then drug usage rates have stayed steady but STD rates and overdoses have gone down as has the cost of drug enforcement. Win / Win.

        It has been a big success story that no one seems willing to look at and adopt for themselves.

      • c w

        SOCIALISM!!

        • spiff

          Yeah, damn Reds! Lets ki… oh wait never mind.

        • spiff

          Yeah, damn Reds! Lets ki… oh wait never mind.

  • prefix_structure

    I read it. I don’t know what I read. Something about statistics? I kind of like statistics.

    If you look at states without helmet laws, there’s a pretty strong correlation to injury and death there so brain buckets are positively correlated with life (who knew?). Also, if you consider that these rippers are a small fraction of the total universe of motorcycles out on the road (being that its only been about 5 years of production and they aren’t even the biggest group sold), and the fact that such absurd motorcycles are only produced and sold during better economic times (disposable income, right?) maybe our best hypothesis is that better economies should produce more motorcycle deaths.

    My only hypothesis is that your lollipop will buoy the search results for this article when people search for the deaths of the aforementioned pop stars.

  • Starmag

    If you experience a stroke… call your doctor
    If you experience a heart attack… call your doctor
    If you experience erections lasting more than four hours… call your doctor

    Wait, what are we talking about again? Prescription drugs or superbikes? I forgot.

    • Eric

      If you experience an erection lasting more than 4 hours, don’t fret. She’ll call the doctor for you.

  • Vern Terwilliger

    As an er physician i can say the rate of serious accidents ive seen is about 50:1 harley vs bikes with power. Of the “bikes with power”, ive seen 3 accidents in the last 12 years that were serious that didnt involve alcohol and all didnt wear helmets. Fyi the problems with the harley crew doesnt appear to be the harley but that most are middle age riders with no experience that buy a huge cruiser with suspect handling and worse brakes and have no skill and no experience.

    As far as pain meds, i see overdoses on that stuff everyday!

    • Can you send gift baskets? My favorite flavor is Jolly Rancher Watermelon.

    • Douglas

      I think the biggest problem w/H-D riders is being “rear brake only” and changing riding posture from the stock bars & controls (even tho’ H-D now sends bikes out the door new with that stuff as std…..). Even ABS won’t prevent a collision at hwy speed if only the back pedal is used…and the ape bar, feet way fwd problem is self-evident….but it won’t change, us Harlistos being what we are….

  • kenneth_moore

    I think if Cephalon really wants Fentanyl to take off they’re going to need more than lollipops. Walking around stoned with blue lips and a stick poking out of your mouth is pretty obvious. I’m thinking a rectal or vaginal suppository is the way to go. Fruit flavors optional.

    • Gives a whole new meaning to “stick up your ass…”

  • Mad4TheCrest

    An apt analogy, Gabe. I recently experienced a self-intervention where I switched from the prescription-strength power of a Ducati 1198 to an OTC variety Triumph Street Triple. I can tell you the Striple is adequate medication but I would be hiding the fact I am longing for the mega-dosing of a likely future Ducati V4. At my age that would likely be an overdose, but what a way to go. But please no raspberry.