Antioxidants have possible therapeutic value in neurodegenerative disorders, although they may have pro-oxidant effects under certain conditions. Glutathione (GSH) is a key free radical scavenger. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) bolsters GSH and intracellular cysteine and also has effective free radical scavenger properties. The effects of chronic NAC administration (50 mg/kg/day, 500 mg/kg/day, 1500 mg/kg/day x 21 days) on cellular markers of oxidative status was studied in striatum of healthy male Sprague-Dawley rats as well as in animals with apparent striatal oxidative stress following chronic haloperidol treatment (1.5 mg/kg/day x 3 weeks). In non-haloperidol treated animals, NAC 50 and 500 mg/kg did not affect oxidative status, although NAC 1,500 mg/kg significantly increased striatal superoxide levels, decreased lipid peroxidation and increased consumption of reduced glutathione (GSH). Haloperidol alone evoked a significant increase in superoxide and lipid peroxidation. All NAC doses blocked haloperidol induced increases in superoxide levels, while NAC 500 mg/kg and 1,500 mg/kg prevented haloperidol-associated lipid peroxidation levels and also increased the GSSG/GSH ratio. NAC may protect against conditions of striatal oxidative stress, although possible pro-oxidative actions at high doses in otherwise healthy individuals, e.g. to offset worsening of neurodegenerative illness, should be viewed with caution.