A new NHS initiative could provide drug addicts with free iPods in a bid to help them stay clean.

The plan - which is based on similar successful schemes in the US - has already become a contentious matter, even though it hasn't yet been given the full go-ahead.

The free-iPod idea has been recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice). The theory is simple: drug rehabilitation clinics will be able to offer iPods, televisions and other prizes to recovering addicts as a reward for staying clean.

Addicts would have to pass three tests each week, gaining a different level of prize for each successful test.

Critics are slamming the plan, pointing out that some medicines for serious diseases (including blindness and lung cancer) aren't available from the NHS.

Those in favour of such a scheme counter that any money spent on prizes will be a good investment, because addicts who stay clean make fewer demands on the NHS.