- RATIONALE: An important goal of addiction research is to discover neurobiological markers that could predict the severity of addiction and help to determine appropriate treatment. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) are being related to cerebral plasticity and impairment caused by substance abuse. OBJECTIVES: This study aims to evaluate alteration of TBARS and BDNF levels among crack cocaine users during early drug withdrawal and its relationship to severity of drug use. METHODS: Forty-nine adults crack cocaine users were recruited at a public psychiatric hospital with a specialized addiction treatment unit. Blood sample was collected at intake and discharge for the analysis of TBARS and BDNF measures. Information about drug use was assessed by the Addiction Severity Index 6th Version (ASI-6). Detailed information about crack cocaine use was obtained through the "Profile of the crack cocaine user." Severity of crack use was estimated using information from age of first crack use, years of crack use, and crack rocks used in the previous 30 days. RESULTS: There is a positive correlation between TBARS levels and severity of crack cocaine use (R = 0.304, p = 0.04) and a negative correlation between BDNF and severity of crack cocaine use (R = -0.359, p = 0.01) at discharge. Also, we found an inverse correlation between TBARS and BDNF levels (R = -0.294, p = 0.004) at discharge. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that BDNF and TBARS could be possible markers for the severity of drug use. Further studies may show how those markers could be related to staging, prognosis, and treatment in crack cocaine dependence.