Drug idiosyncrasy is a term used to describe any unusual or abnormal reaction to a drug. It is any reaction that is different from the one normally expected of a specific drug and dose. For example, a patient may be given a drug to help him or her sleep (eg, a hypnotic). Instead of falling asleep, the patient remains wide awake and shows signs of nervousness or excitement. This response is an idiosyncratic response because it is different from what the nurse expects from this type of drug. Another patient may receive the same drug and dose, fall asleep, and after 8 hours be difficult to awaken. This, too, is abnormal and describes an overresponse to the drug.
The cause of drug idiosyncrasy is not clear. It is believed to be due to a genetic deficiency that makes the patient unable to tolerate certain chemicals, including drugs.
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