Madame ZuZu’s Emporium hosts a Psychedelic Conversation
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Madame ZuZu’s Emporium hosts a Psychedelic Conversation

In the 19th Century, French revolutionaries met in salons to discuss politics and philosophy. In 2023, a group Chicago medical professionals gather at Billy Corgan’s whimsical Highland Park, IL. tea salon, Madame ZuZu’s, to discuss psychedelics. Madame ZuZu’s is a buzzing place every month over exotic teas and plant-based pastries. Conversations range from ketamine therapy to psilocybin treatment, dosing and trip-sitting to legislation. The Chicago Med Psychedelics Group, as they call themselves, is a group of passionate practitioners whose backgrounds span mainstream medicine and beyond. They include nurse practitioners, psychotherapists and internal medicine specialists. They also include university medical directors and cannabis pharmacologists. The Chicago Med Psychedelics Group was formed to help kickstart a change at a local scale. “Psychedelics have many potential benefits and pitfalls to help push healing to the level it deserves.” Leslie Mendoza Temple MD is the Medical Director of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Integrative Medicine Program and Clinical Associate Professor of family medicine at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “I knew that there was a group of early adopters and I felt it would be beneficial to work together to promote a rational and balanced way to share information on the science and logistics behind this large class of drugs.” In summer 2022, Mendoza Temple browsed the MAPS website, and connected with David Schwartz, another Chicagoan and licensed clinical professional counsellor and psychedelic integrative psychotherapist. They met, clicked, and invited others to join. “We started growing the groups because I wanted to know who I was going to refer [with questions about psychoedelic medicine or treatment]?” explained Mendoza Temple. “I want to be able to send patients to the right place. It’s a big part of it all: who can you trust and who can hold a space for these experiences? The psychedelic movement is being built by microcosms such as ours. “Members join the tight-knit group for a variety of reasons. All want to connect to other professionals who share their interests. Some want to increase their knowledge of psychedelics, while others want to combine their firsthand experiences with their professional expertise in order to help patients. Katie Sullivan is a family nurse practitioner, founder of Modern Compassionate Care. A life-changing psilocybin encounter prompted her to become a psychedelic advocate. Sullivan became a single mother when her husband, a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, died aged 30 after being exposed to burn pits. “I was a young mom with a 3-year old who was deeply traumatized, and I lived with a significant amount survivor’s guilty,” she explains.Sullivan used therapy, support groups and EMDR in order to manage her grief and PTSD. While they helped to reduce some of her grief, a well of deep sorrow persisted. She turned to psilocybin. “I spent time consciously preparing my solo trip, and then I went on a inner journey to meet the pain that i couldn’t let go.” Sullivan reflects her psilocybin experience provided catharsis as well as a new perspective which allowed her to release the guilt she had been carrying. Six years have passed since that transformative trip. Sullivan says it was one of the most important moments in her life and inspired her to get involved with psychedelic activism. She considers the support she receives, from the Chicago Med Psychedelics Group, as invaluable. “I really wanted to become part of a provider and clinician community that I could turn towards,” she says. She says, “This is a new area, and I want people to feel safe and educated in a way that is ethical.” David Schwartz’s involvement with the group was a step towards adopting a psychedelic friendly professional persona. “So, that’s how I decided to step out of my psychedelic wardrobe.” Schwartz is happy to talk with curious clients about psychedelics. “I believe it’s important to normalize the benefits these medicines,” said Schwartz. I decided that because of my psychedelic experience, I had a responsibility to provide information and be a conduit for people who wanted to talk openly. Schwartz said that there was a lot of excitement and conversation. Everyone wants to talk, ask questions, share and connect. Special guests sometimes join in, bringing their unique expertise or perspective. Billy Corgan, who was hiding behind ZuZu tea counter, sat with the group last month to discuss whether U.S. society is ready to handle full psychedelic legalization. Other guests have included Jean Lacy, founder and director of the Illinois Psychedelic Society; Anne Berg, of the Psychedelic Pharmacists Association; and Rachel Norris MD. She is the owner and operator at Imagine Healthcare, a ketamine-focused clinic in Chicago. Madame ZuZu’s airy art-deco store is the perfect place for this eclectic group of knowledge-hungry individuals who are eager to meet other like-minded people. Beyond the excitement of learning and connecting, there is also a sense of wanting to contribute to the changing legislative landscape of Illinois. La Shawn Ford, an Illinois legislator, introduced the Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens Act (also known as the “Illinois CURE Act”) in January 2023. This act, if passed, would regulate and license the supply of psilocybin in Illinois. While the bill is under consideration, events that promote debate and education about psychedelics may help to raise awareness. Chicago Med Psychedelics Group has partnered with sister groups such as the Illinois Psychedelic Society to share educational resources and advance the cause. Leslie Mendoza Temple Lisa Solomon and Karolina Miko MD will present and participate in panels at the Illinois Cannabis and Psychedelic Symposium, which will take place in late September. Other members of the group have lined up for the upcoming Illinois Psychedelic Society Summer Networking Mixer. The event will welcome 300 guests. The last mixer that the group was involved in sold out within 48-hours. Chicago Med Psychedelics Group believes that while participation in larger events is important, they prefer to keep their gatherings with Madame ZuZu’s small, intimate, and supportive. “I like keeping it smaller,” Mendoza Temple says. “I don’t think we would even have a mission or vision statement because that makes it too formal. Then you invite more people and you need an itinerary…Don’t we already have enough big, formal groups?” “Tend to the area of the garden that you can touch,” says Schwartz. “I’m excited to be a part of the evolution as legislation changes, but what I’m really interested in is changing the culture at the bottom up.” Photo from far left clockwise: Maerry Lee MD ACEP; Joseph Friedman RPh, Anne Berg PharmD, Lisa Solomon, Clinical Education Council Chair of the Illinois Psychedelic Society; Karolina Mikos, Luba Andres RPh, Lisa Solomon.


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