Suzie and David Stadnyk were never ones to do drugs, but when they both turned 59 last August, the couple decided it was time to experiment.
“We wanted to be more spiritual,” said Suzie.
So the pair, who both work in venture capital and divide their time between Central Park South and Vancouver, started dabbling in psychedelics. They headed to the high-end Costa Rican retreat Rythmia for a week of organic food and massage, plus a “liberation dance” and four nights taking the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca under medical supervision.
The first night, David downed three shots glasses of a molasses-thick intoxicating ayahuasca brew and went into a tailspin.
“I was trying to fend off angular visions coming at me, which wasn’t a lot of fun,” he told The Post. The next night he took a smaller dose and had a very, very good trip.
“That was the best night of my life,” he said. “I met the soul I lost as a child and we had a conversation, and I’m really not like that. There were shaman dogs there and one came over, stuck out this very long tongue and said, ‘You are OK, you know’ … It was a wonderful, beautiful experience. I was floating and thought, ‘If I need to die it should be now because I don’t think I could feel any better.’”
The Stadnyks have returned to Rythmia several times over the past year; Suzie even went once with their 25-year-old daughter.
“It’s the best environment to try [ayahuasca],” gushed Suzie. “It’s like a five-star resort and they force you to trust them. You go there so you don’t do it on your friend’s couch and freak out.”
Traditionally the domain of Timothy Leary acolytes and, more recently, Burning Man and Coachella attendees, psychedelics are now mainstream and upscale. Wealthy New Yorkers are traveling to South and Central America for luxe ayahuasca experiences, dropping shrooms in the Caribbean or on dates in the Hamptons, and seeing psychiatrists who use ketamine, the only psychedelic that is legal in New York. (Psilocybin mushrooms are legal under medical supervision in California and Oregon and decriminalized in several other places in the US.)
Last month in St. Tropez, the mental health nonprofit called Aurora Institute, co-founded by German billionaire Christian Angermayer, hosted a star-studded “evening of discovery” looking at the behind psychedelics with Queen Latifah, Cameron Winklevoss and Robbie Williams in attendance science. Actress and comedian Ali Wong has written openly about regularly doing shrooms and ayahuasca with her husband, while Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently credited “magic mushrooms” and ayahuasca for providing him with the mental clarity it took to score a $200 million contract extension. The wealthy and powerful are totally tripping.
“I’m at Gucci buying clothes right now. I wear Chanel and I am not a liberation dance type hippie person,” said Suzie. “Friends find it surprising that I would do this, but I fell in love with it.”
A 42-year-old in tech, who asked to remain anonymous due to legal concerns, talked of being turned on to mushrooms by a woman he met at a retreat for entrepreneurs. “We started dating and she said ‘I think we could have a nice time doing this together,’” said the man, who lives in the Flatiron. At first he was resistant, but now he feels the psychedelics have been enormously expansive.
“I was always very anti-drug and my brain is my moneymaker so I didn’t want to mess with it,” he said. “I am an engineer — so far from a woo-woo person — but things became clear when I took it and the dots just connected.” He also abandoned traditional therapy, replacing it with mushroom journeys assisted by a therapist.
“This has become one of the biggest underground movements,” he said. “I know therapists now who won’t see you if you won’t do psychedelics.”
At the end of July, Dr. Lea Lis, a psychiatrist, opened the Hamptons Insight Center, where she treats patients with ketamine.
“Traditional psychotropics like Prozac or Zoloft weren’t healing patients; they can be a Band Aid, but psychedelics have offered the new frontier of mental health,” she said. “A lot of people are them doing recreationally illegally, but this is all legal.”
Her swank new clinic has soundproofed rooms, so patients — a combination of Hamptons locals and the summer mix of finance, professionals, and entertainment types — can cry and scream without creating a disturbance. “I walk them through a beautiful experience of letting go of trauma they have held onto for years,” Lis said. “Psychedelics have hit the zeitgeist and this is their cultural moment.”
Not all shrinks are completely on board with the new wave. Phoenix-based psychiatrist Dr. Jane Caplan, whose staff is trained in ketamine use, has reservations. “They do not have the potential for misuse. We are rewiring the brain, and my hope is that we can use them to resolve issues, but my biggest concern is that people are going to misuse another drug, and this class of drugs is the most powerful psychoactive class in existence. We have seen people who have trauma that’s gotten worse, and when people take them in a party situation — especially under the age of 25 when frontal lobes have not wired to rest of brain — you are potentially rewiring foundational aspects of the brain. What is referred to as the ‘k hole’ is a very dark place you can fall into and can’t necessarily climb your way out of. People can hit a place where their defenses are down and it’s a place their psyches have been protecting them from.”
But many aren’t worried about potential side effects. A New York City publicist in the lifestyle realm said, “A lot of the women I know are taking psychedelics because alcohol has too many calories.”
An attractive 44-year-old editor recently went on a July Fourth date in Montauk with a finance executive in his 50s who owned a spectacular home on the ocean. She was surprised, but not off put, when he turned to her, stared into her eyes and asked, “Have you ever done mushrooms?”
She was excited at the idea. “It was an adventure,” said the Upper East Sider. “It’s something he does regularly and I had never done it. Everyone seems to rave about it. It felt different than if I had been drinking; kind of like pot without the paranoia.”
Watching fireworks on the beach became a heightened experience. “It was fun; kind of like half a gummy with a Xanax,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous and noted she steers clear of harder drugs. “It’s just mushrooms, and it’s the designer thing to do these days.”