Knowing about the drugs you take today can save you a lot of grief tomorrow.

So, here’s what experts say you must do to take charge:

Step 1: Home management>

Move the medicine. The bathroom medicine cabinet actually is the worst place in the house to store drugs. The warmth and moisture can punish pills that need to be stored in cool, dry places.

Take inventory. Make a list of everything you take. List the name of the drug, what it’s for, dosage, how many times you take it a day, how long you need to take it and when you bought it.

Leave pills in their bottles. Don’t take one set of pills and save room by pouring them into a bottle with another set of pills simply because you take them at the same time every day, and don’t mix old liquids with new liquids. These are chemicals and combining them can result in chemical reactions.

Check expiration dates. The medicine’s potency may be affected if you take expired drugs.

Step 2: Ask your pharmacist

Take your drug questions to your pharmacist. If you get your drugs from just one pharmacy, your pharmacist may know more than your doctor about the drugs you are taking.

In preparation for the conversation, make sure you write a list of everything you take. Report even the most innocent over-the-counter drugs and any natural and herbal food and pill supplements.

Step 3: Talk to your doctor

Physicians who prescribe medicines may or may not explain them well.

The American Pharmacists Association suggests asking these questions when you get a new prescription:

– What is the name of the medication and what is it supposed to do?

– When and how do I take it?

– How long should I take it?

– Does this medication contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?

– Should I avoid alcohol, any other medicines, food or activities?

– Should I expect any side effects?

– What if I forget to take my medications?

– For women: Is it safe to become pregnant or to breast-feed while taking this medication?

– For men: Can this drug affect male reproductive DNA?

– Is there a generic version of what my physician has prescribed?

– How should I store the medication?

© 2006, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.