Back in the late 80s, Wall Street trader and entrepreneur Mike “Zappy” Zapolin, sniffed out how potentially profitable registering internet domain names could be for scaling businesses. Except, most companies he approached with this idea thought he was simply crazy. “Oh, we have brochures,” they told him. “What do we need an internet domain for?”
That’s when Zappy, who describes himself as a “futurist”, decided to buy out some of the most common domain names, including Beer.com and Diamond.com, for amounts ranging from US $80,000 to $300,000. Within a few years, he sold these for more than seven million dollars each.
His intuitive abilities propelled him to millionaire status overnight when the internet boom happened. “Forward thinking” is one way to encapsulate his personality, but “bizarre, bonkers yet somehow brilliant” works equally well.
Today, 53-year-old Zappy has come a long way from his days of internet domain fame. He has emerged as a thought leader and spiritual guide in one of the most unexpected spaces for a former Wall Street wolf. He is now a “psychedelic concierge”.
Zappy is part of a growing tribe of psychedelic advocates who are convinced that psychedelic-assisted therapy is how we’re going to combat the worsening mental health crisis that has characterised 2020. He has not only collaborated with wellness and meditation star Deepak Chopra, but also gone on consciousness transforming trips with celebrities including Fast & Furious actor Michelle Rodriguez and former NBA player Lamar Odom (who you’ve likely spotted on a Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ guilt-watching spree). His journey of serving as a psychedelic concierge to Odom in his darkest times is going to be released in an upcoming documentary.
Zappy is the co-founder of the Mind Army, an advocacy group urging U.S. President Donald Trump to sign an executive order legalising psychedelics for mental health. He has also established The Ketamine Fund, a non-profit organisation that aims to dramatically reduce suicide rates through alternative therapy.
But in case you’re still wondering what the hell a “psychedelic concierge” even is, we caught up with Zappy to ask him how he stumbled into becoming a spiritual trip guide, how he helped famous figures like Lamar Odom break through their well-documented substance abuse issues, and what goes behind recommending a particular psychedelic.
VICE: Hey Zappy, how’s it going? So, a “psychedelic concierge” sounds really cool and whacked out as a job title, but what even is it?
Zappy: I spent most of my life doing what society told me to do if I wanted to be fulfilled. But sometime in 2011, I found myself in a spiritual midlife crisis. I was trying to find something that could fulfil me, when I thought back to my psychedelic experience of trying mescaline (a natural hallucinogen found in cacti) as a teenager. My first experience wasn’t a positive one, but I decided to try it again, this time with the intent of expanding my consciousness. I wanted to go into the jungles of Peru and try out ayahuasca, so I told a friend who knew Michelle Rodriguez, and we decided to invite her along. She agreed to come and let us film it, which we later turned into a documentary called The Reality of Truth.
So we got a doctor on board, took a trip to Peru, and first did San Pedro, which is a hallucinogenic cactus, and ayahuasca with a shaman a few days later. The experience was life transforming, especially for Michelle. It helped her sort through all the overwhelming emotions she’d felt after her co-star Paul Walker died, and seeing her evolve was beautiful. I went back and told all my friends who had mental health and addiction issues that they had to try it, but they were hesitant.
Thanks to my time on Wall Street, I had a close network of business professionals, thought leaders and celebrities. They needed guidance when it came to taking psychedelics, so they came to me.
Soon I realised that because of all my reading, research, and personal experiences doing these psychedelics, I could pinpoint whether someone needed ketamine or plant medicine like ayahuasca or psilocybin mushrooms or ibogaine, a powerful African root. And I realised at that point, that I was kind of like a psychedelic concierge.
Like when you go to a hotel and ask the concierge, and they make recommendations based on whether you want dinner, or wine or good music. I talk to people about what their intent is, what their trauma is, and what they’re trying to accomplish, and then I can recommend what psychedelic would work for them.
So what does this job entail? How do you do these psychedelic treatments?
To train to become a psychedelic concierge, I had to apprentice with a lot of shamans, learn the full effects of the plant medicine or ketamine by experiencing it, go to indigenous places and try everything from ayahuasca to ibogaine. Essentially, what I do is act as a procurer as well as a trip sitter, along with the shaman. It’s important to have that shaman, who has had a multigenerational experience with plant medicine. They have a reverence for it, which makes the experience transcendental. If you just order psychedelics online and think you’re gonna listen to cool music and trip, you’re missing out on the lineage and oral tradition that comes with them, and are probably not going to get what you seek out of a psychedelic.
We also take doctors when we go on these jungle trips to make sure there’s always a safe set and setting (the mindset, social and physical environment when one has a psychedelic experience). Along with the shaman, I guide people on these trips, calm them down, and have conversations with them after their trip has worn off. It’s important to have these shamans to ensure that when a person is working through their trauma, they don’t create new ones.
My partner Warren Gumpel and I also created these corporate retreats we call “Ketatation”, which is a form of meditation with ketamine. Since Ketamine is an FDA-approved western drug and can be given on a prescription basis, I’ve realised people in the U.S. are more comfortable taking it. We give them these ketamine lozenges that just kind of melt in your mouth, and we all take them at the same time. It’s this powerful group experience where you all feel closer than ever and we’ve even had telepathic conversations. After the sessions, we’ve seen that the group is more unified than ever.
Some corporate companies organise nature retreats for a week as a team building exercise. With ketatation, you can develop a deeper connection with your co-workers in an hour.
We’ve done this even with Silicon Valley executives, and seen it do wonders for productivity. We’re kind of creating this modern day shaman with a network of medical professionals who are also trip guides.
How do you know what psychedelic to prescribe?
If I feel someone has grown out of touch with nature, and needs it to learn to resist the things they can’t in life, I recommend San Pedro. It instantly brings you closer to nature and helps you break out of debilitating patterns.
When a celebrity who had issues with her mother came to me, I realised what she needed was this comforting hug. For her, I recommended ayahuasca, because it’s a plant that has this feminine energy, the energy of creation. It made her understand herself as well as what her mother was going through, and allowed her to find a sense of forgiveness.
In another case, I treated a top rapper who had anxiety. They had a constant stream of consciousness flowing through them, and needed something to cut out the noise. So I started them off with ketamine.
When you take ketamine, about five minutes into your session, all the chatter in your brain fades away, and you’re sitting there in this present moment awareness with no future or past.
Often people can’t meditate because they’re ruminating in their trauma. Ketamine has the ability to take the weight off of that trauma, and give you this transcendental experience. You look at yourself with a third person perspective, and realise you don’t need to be carrying so much of the trauma. Once this rapper was done with their ketamine treatment, I recommended they microdose on psilocybin mushrooms. By microdosing, they were able to carry on with their life, but with this bubbling joy inside them. It has the potential to wipe out all antidepressants. Once they did these therapies, they could still go to work, be creative and not hold on to the raw trauma and noise they had in their brain.
Ibogaine, which is an alkaloid made from the iboga plant, is what I give people when I think they need a complete turnaround, either mentally or due to a physical ailment. I try not to give this to too many people because it’s really intense, but it has the ability to help people break free of all addictions, including heroin and other opioids. It wipes clean your prefrontal cortex when you’re on it, and when it wears off, you come out without any cravings.
Ayahuasca is the mother who will hold you and hug you, San Pedro is the stern father who shows you what to do, but ibogaine is the angry grandfather who’ll shake you up and show you why you’re messed up.
For Lamar Odom, who had a substance abuse issue, I created a formula of ketamine, plant medicine with a daily practice for a conscious transformation. I started him off with ketamine because he had never taken psychedelics. He had been told that he would be shot or arrested if he did psychedelics as a Black American. But based on his addiction profile and African American background, I asked him to try ibogaine, and we went down to Mexico with a team of medical professionals and a shaman. 36 hours after he did it, he was transformed. He lost his fear of death and was ready to return to playing pro basketball. He reconnected with his ex-wife and kids, and even brought his father who was a methadone addict, to try ketamine therapy.
What has been your most intense psychedelic experience?
When I did ayahuasca in the jungles of Peru, I dropped into this complete present moment awareness, and felt like God was sitting with me. God asked me, “Do you know how you’re breathing? Do you know how your hair grows?” I said no. Then God replied, “Well if you don’t know how you’re doing these things, but need to do so to live, why do you think you always need to be in control of things?” It was the most freeing moment of my life. I realised that I had to treat life like a movie I was watching. I burst out laughing because I finally understood the cosmic joke of the universe.
Follow Shamani on Instagram.