U.S. overdose deaths finally stopped climbing last year. And they apparently fell a little - the first such decline in nearly three decades.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday posted the preliminary numbers showing nearly 68,000 drug overdose deaths were reported last year. The number may go up as more investigations are completed, but the agency expects the tally will end up below 69,000.

Overdose deaths have been climbing each year since 1990, topping 70,000 in 2017.

Any leveling off or decline in overdose deaths is good news, but the overdose death rate is still about seven times higher than it was a generation ago.

The improvement was driven by a drop in deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdose deaths often involve more than one drug.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)