Reduced and oxidized glutathione (GSH and GSSG), protein-bound glutathione, lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzyme activities were determined in the erythrocyte lysates and membranes of type I and II alcoholics in order to clarify the effect of age-of-onset and the duration of the alcohol consumption on erythrocyte oxidant and antioxidant status. The osmotic fragility and susceptibility of the erythrocytes to haemolysis were also determined. Erythrocyte lipid peroxidation was significantly increased but, GSH and protein-bound GSH, GSH/GSSG ratio and antioxidant enzyme activities were markedly decreased in the erythrocytes of the alcoholic subgroups. Erythrocyte count and haemoglobin content in the blood of alcoholics were found to be decreased in accordance with the finding that erythrocytes were more fragile and less resistant to haemolysis particularly in type II alcoholics. The present study showed that ethanol-induced oxidative stress in erythrocytes can lead to haemolysis and membrane-specific injuries in erythrocytes of the alcoholic subtypes. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.