Who would you say is alcohol’s biggest customer? Based on glitzy commercial and magazine spreads, it would seem to be either the glamorous professional grabbing after dinner drinks or the carefree 20-something catching up with friends every weekend. According to a recent study, it seems that alcohol is actually mostly bought by, well, alcoholics. So how much do you have to drink to land in this category?

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog recently presented a breakdown of U.S. alcohol sales based on the 2007 book, Paying the Tab. According to their calculations, the top 10 percent of heavy drinkers in America account for well over half the alcohol consumed in any given year. This category consists of 24 million adults over the age of 18, but before you place yourself in this category because you like to get legless every weekend, let’s have a look at just what those at the top are actually drinking.

In order to make it into America’s top 10 percent of drinkers, you have to consume an average of 74 alcoholic drinks per week or about 10 drinks per day. “This works out to a little more than four and a half 750-ml bottles of Jack Daniels, 18 bottles of wine, or three 24-can cases of beer a week” The Post reported.

To make clear the sheer volume of alcohol these 24 million Americans consume, one could drink more than two bottles of wine every night with dinner and still not qualify to be in the top 10. "I agree that it’s hard to imagine consuming 10 drinks a day, [but] there are a remarkable number of people who drink a couple of six packs a day, or a pint of whiskey," the study’s author Philip J. Cook told Post reporter Christopher Ingraham in response to his shock.

Increasing taxes and prices on alcoholic beverages is an effective, inexpensive, and relatively simple way to reduce the numbers of alcohol-related harm and excessive drinking. Another possible side effect of this? Decreases in alcohol sales. Cook calculated that if the top 10 were to decrease their level of consumption to mirror that of the ninth group, alcohol sales would fall by 60 percent.

Understandably so, one of the toughest opponents against bids to increase alcohol taxes are none other than those in the alcohol industry. The reason for this is everything from price hikes leading to other problems, such as bootlegging or the argument that raising costs isn’t going to deter true addicts from purchasing their drug of choice.

As reported by US News, although alcohol tax may seem like the answer to our country’s substance abuse problem, it could also potentially harm state budgets and end up affecting consumers, not all of which suffer from alcohol issues. But is the potential money lost for alcohol industry more important than the $200 billion in actual “lost productivity” that alcohol abuse costs America each year? That’s still up for debate.